Today I listened to the "Retraction" episode on This American Life's podcast, and I must say, I have some ultra-mixed feelings about the line between fact and fiction when it comes to a really good story. While most of the facts of the story did check out, many of the most emotionally moving parts were fictional: episodes cobbled together from actual experiences but not experiences that happened to the storyteller (as he made us believe) or within the circumstances or timeframes stated by him as fact. Here's my problem: as a storyteller, I wonder if we can actually call what he did "lying"? He did exaggerate some pieces, move other pieces around, and underplay still more pieces for dramatic effect all in service of a story--a good one--which made me, others, all of us, care about what is going on in a big factory in China. But is it, strictly speaking, a lie if you are a storyteller telling someone a tale, and using the tools in your bag (namely, that you are good at making stuff up) to spin the web? I don't know. I'm really tied up in knots about this one; I can see where TAL is coming from and why they retracted the story, but Daisey can we really call Daisey a liar, when he never called his work journalism? We knew right away that the story was excerpted from a stage play, so shouldn't we take it as a little stretchy with the truth, and high on drama? I don't know.
But I'm interested to hear what you think.