Monday, February 20, 2012

Exclusive: Nightline Goes Inside the Chinese Apple Factories



How 'Nightline' Got Inside Apple's Chinese Factories


Given the legendary secrecy of the world's most valuable company, you have to wonder: How am I seeing this? Well, a few years ago, I sent THIS to Steve Jobs, blatantly stealing the Apple beat from a more able colleague. I still feel guilty, but I don't regret it because I was genuinely taken with the second coming of Jobs and was unabashedly fond of Apple's products. My hope for a sweeping profile led to my covering a few launches and every six months we pitched them an ABC News special on the inner workings of Apple. They always politely declined.


But in recent months, the fond memorials for Steve Jobs and the company's record-breaking profits have been tarnished by some of the worst press in Apple's history, most of it related to its top Chinese supplier, Foxconn.






Just after a horrific rash of worker suicides at the Foxconn factory complex outside of Hong Kong in 2010, a monologist named Mike Daisey launched a one-man show called "The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." He described travelling to the gates of Foxconn and meeting people coming off 13-15 hour shifts on the Apple lines. He described a 13-year-old who spent her days cleaning iPhone screens.


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Daisey's show was featured on NPR's "This American Life" in January and a listener named Mark Shields was so moved, he launched a petition drive online. Over 250,000 Apple users called on the company to build the first "ethical" iPhone, and protests were planned at Apple stores around the world.


It was around this time when Apple called me. They wondered if "Nightline" was interested in seeing their iPhone, iPad and MacBook final assembly lines at Foxconn during a first-ever audit by the Fair Labor Association. I said yes, very much, and immediately started imaging the reasons why they were offering such a scoop to me, of all people. Among the possibilities:


-I've said nice things about their products on the air. -ABC News is owned by the Disney Corporation and Disney CEO Bob Iger serves on the Apple Board of Directors -The Steve Jobs Trust is Disney's largest shareholder. -They enjoy "Nightline."


It must be the last one, because the first three would have no bearing on my reporting and I'm pretty sure Apple knows it.


By BILL WEIR (@BillWeirABC)


Watch "Nightline" anchor Bill Weir's exclusive full report on a special edition of "Nightline," "iFactory: Inside Apple," TUESDAY, Feb. 21 at 11:35 p.m. ET/PT, with a preview on "Good Morning America" and "World News with Diane Sawyer," all on ABC