Air date: August 24, 2007
The gist: A celebration of the cliché of heartbreak from every angle.
Why it's great: A charming, vulnerable Starlee Kine (now the host of Mystery Show) decides that the best way to get over a recent breakup is to write her own breakup song, and seeks guidance from none other than Phil Collins. As the story evolves, Kine echoes what we all fear to be true about breakups: that we secretly enjoy the sadness. The episode ends with three short acts about divorce, including a recording of an 8-year-old asking questions about her parents' breakup that her adult self attempts to answer. Forget Adele -- this is the antidote for heartbreak.
Episode 454: "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory" and Episode 460: "Retraction"
Original air dates: 1/6/2012 and 3/16/2012 (note No. 454 is now only available in transcript form)
The gist: Mike Daisey performs an excerpt from his one-man show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which chronicles his eye-opening visits to Apple factories in China in which he spoke to workers about working conditions. Later, host Ira Glass sits down with Daisey after evidence surfaces that details in the story were fabricated.
Why it's great: In its 20-year run, This American Life has only once had to issue a retraction. While many media outlets -- newspapers and radio programs alike -- might have issued a "regret the error," Ira Glass made the decision to turn the debacle into a radio show. "Retraction" not only vies to get the story right, digging into some of the allegations regarding underage workers and dangerous conditions inside factories, but it also pulls back the curtain on how stories are vetted and fact-checked at TAL. Glass is candid about the show's role in failing to thoroughly follow up on sources, but also confronts Daisey for exploiting his staff's trust. In one of the most gripping discussions ever recorded regarding the role of facts in journalism, Daisey argues for the emotional truth -- the "truthiness" of his version -- while Glass insists, no, facts are facts. Though the story about the story overshadows the very real problems at Apple factories, TAL wins the day by proving its integrity to listeners.