The 2011 Trading 8s “Journalist of the Year” Award

Trading 8s tends to bestow the honor of “Journalist of the Year” on unorthodox journalists. Some might say they aren’t even journalists. At least, not in the Woodward-and-Bernstein kind of way. The 2009 award went to Ezra Klein, who’s known more for his blogging, and the 2010 award went to Paul Krugman, an economist who snuck in the back door of The New York Times with an op-ed column and a blog. This year, we push the boundaries even further.

Mike Daisey doesn’t work for a newspaper or a TV station or any kind of news outlet. He maintains a blog, but that’s just to keep his fans up-to-date. Mike Daisey’s real work is on the stage because Mike Daisey is a monologist.

I had to look up what that word means. A monologist performs monologues–or, you might call them, one-man shows.

Apparently, Mike Daisey has been King of the Monologists for several years, but let’s face it, that’s a pretty small kingdom. So I didn’t know what to expect when I went to see his show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” in downtown Manhattan in early December.

Mike Daisey wasn’t even supposed to be on the stage that night. His show was supposed to be over. One-man shows don’t run for long because…well, how many of you go to one-man shows on a regular basis? Exactly. Not a big moneymaker.

But “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” was like a virus…a computer virus…working its way into the cultural ether, spreading from person to person as more people saw it, loved it, and were changed by it. So Mike Daisey extended its run for a few more days. And thank God he did.

I can’t compare “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” to other one-man shows because, honestly, I haven’t seen many. But I can compare it to other journalistic efforts to investigate and report on Apple, China, trade, labor, and human rights because, honestly, I read almost everything our news outlets have to say on those matters. And there’s no comparison.

First, it must be said that, as an artist, as a performer, Mike Daisey is astonishingly good.

Second, his investigative work was more thorough, more brave, and more honest than anything anyone else has done on this particular issue.

Third, his passion, his conscience, his moral dedication is inspiring without being saccharine. And it has changed the world. Only a little. So far. But his message alone — the work of one person — has, like every good virus, become a cause célèbre of every major news outlet, each of which has adopted the crusade as their own. And now Apple is responding. Foxconn (about whom, more later) is changing. It’s not nearly enough. Not yet. But it’s a start. And it will continue. And it all started with Mike Daisey.

And now Mike Daisey has done something inexplicably generous. He has refused to cash in his fame. He has released the entire transcript of his show without copyright. Anyone can perform it. Anyone can reprint it. No one — and I mean no one — with his fame has ever done that.

And so, I have the unexpected pleasure of reproducing the entire show right here on Trading 8s. But I must caution you not to read it if it is at all possible for you to see the show. Oh, did I forget to mention? The show that was supposed to end in November…is still running. Go see it.

But if you can’t, here, over the course of the next week, we are proud to present “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” by the 2011 Trading 8s “Journalist of the Year” Mike Daisey.


Tomorrow: “Part One: Midnight in the Chungking Mansions”