OFF THE GRID

Does Steve Jobs Really Hate the Press This Much?

Apr 29, 10 | 7:51 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Seriously, what could possibly be on Steve’s mind?

Think about the process that would go on—or certainly ought to go on—before a company gets the police to search a journalist’s house. Consider what there is to gain and what there is to lose. The gain, I suppose, would have to be, in the case of the Gizmodo warrant and search, industrial secrets so valuable that they’d be worth taking a course of action that could easily snowball into a permanent stain on your brand.

Now, it’s hard to imagine that Apple had secrets so valuable it would be willing to risk becoming the “kicking in your door company”—indeed, was there anything more that was secret after Gizmodo pulled apart the phone?

So, therefore, Steve is either arrogant enough to believe that there’s little chance of a snowball effect (and is willing to risk his shareholders' dough on that bet), or has been made crazy enough—a fury that’s built up over decades now—by disrespectful reporters to just get really mean.

His lack of cogent and sensible advice about the press is pretty obvious, too. Everybody who writes about the technology business has dealt with Steve’s PR aide, Katie Cotton, who is quite an amazing example of a Stepford executive. All of Apple’s executives are famous for their submissive nature when it comes to the boss and how he wants his public image handled. Apple’s legal, PR, and compliance departments were not strong enough, for instance, to challenge Steve on his decision to mislead investors about his health.

Perhaps it is that experience—being able to lie about his health with no real legal or PR consequences—that has made him feel invulnerable to the public’s reaction. Or, perhaps, it is the press attention to things like his health (as well as so much other press aggravation in the past) that has made him all the more aggressive toward us now.

Hence, the Gizmodo overreaction, and—though hardly on the level of having my door kicked in, but still weird and senseless—the rejection of an iPhone app through which you might have read my columns, which, on occasion, take aim at Steve.

Everybody who has covered Apple knows not only that Katie Cotton is an android (ha!), but that Apple has always been among the companies most sensitive to press criticisms.

More and more, Apple is in a position to do something about that criticism.

Indeed, Steve’s avid courtship of every significant publisher in this country—and every significant publisher's growing belief that its future depends on Apple—really complicates the power equation. Was it just my imagination or did the New York Times, still working out its deepening business relationship with Apple, bury the Gizmodo story?

And yet why would he want to go here? Why would Steve Jobs, a successful manufacturer of consumer electronic products, want to spend his time and capital trying to control what, ultimately, isn’t going to be controlled, in which the very efforts to exert control inevitably become the story that undermines your control—and your reputation?

Somebody ought to shake him.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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