Apple’s PR ‘problem’ is media self-entitlement

Bracketing Apple’s announcement of OS X Mountain Lion last week was a blog post and a newspaper report from two different sources, both with a common theme – Apple’s supposed treatment of press outlets that run stories which don’t reflect Apple’s best interests. What’s apparent is not that Apple is doing anything out of turn – it’s that some journalists and bloggers have an enormously inflated sense of self-entitlement.

Example one is Jason O’Grady, ZDNet blogger and owner of O’Grady’s PowerPage, a one-time influential blog focused on the Mac. O’Grady has had a contentious relationship with Apple for many years, since the company took him to court for his site’s involvement in the leak of an internal project code-named “Asteroid.”

O’Grady unsuccessful attempts to obtain information about an issue related to the recent controversy surrounding social network Path and its use of Address Book data spurred him to pen a blog piece entitled Apple PR’s dirty little secret, in which O’Grady suggested that Apple is disinclined to cooperate with or offer information to publications that don’t play nice with them.

Is this really a surprise to anyone with a lick of common sense? Apple – and any other company, for that matter – has every right to control the message about new products, and if you’ve proven yourself to be a liability in the past, it shouldn’t be any surprise that you’re persona non grata. O’Grady’s piece is little more than sour grapes at being left out in the cold.

Erik Wemple at The Washington Post picked up the torch late Thursday with his blog piece Apple and the New York Times not meshing. Wemple doesn’t have his own dirty laundry to air. Instead, he suggests that Apple has left the New York Times out in the cold following the recent publication of articles critical of Apple supplier Foxconn’s working conditions – articles that have been echoed in the mainstream media and the blogosphere in the weeks since they ran, which may have provoked Apple to earlier this week announce efforts to audit Foxconn and other Apple suppliers using the Fair Labor Association, or FLA.

With Mountain Lion’s introduction, it wasn’t the Times that Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke to, it was the Wall Street Journal. The Times was left to stock PR quotes to fill out its story. The Journal, Kempel notes, is owned by the same company that owns AllThingsD, the Web site run by Walt Mossberg, who frequently is pre-briefed on Apple products and has, in the past, hosted Steve Jobs on the stage of AllThingsD events. Wemple implies guilt by association.

But Wemple’s claim that the New York Times was left out of the Mountain Lion news cycle falls flat. Wemple only mentions Times columnist David Pogue’s preview of Mountain Lion in passing. Yet Pogue himself noted in his first look at Mountain Lion that he had been using it for a week. This tacitly confirms that Pogue was briefed at the same time as everyone else who was let in on Apple’s secret ahead of time – which John Gruber of Daring Fireball confirmed. So much for Apple turning its back on the Times.

That Apple is managing the flow of information about new products is not news. Apple is no different from any other company in this respect, and if you think otherwise, you’re deluding yourself.

[Editor’s note, 2/20 3:21 PM ET: Updated to reflect Jason O’Grady’s research on Address Book, not Mountain Lion, as previously reported.]

  • Smithereens

    “Apple – and any other company, for that matter – has every right to control the message about new products…” No they don’t. That’s like saying Governments should control the news.

    • Peter Cohen

      “That’s like saying Governments should control the news.”

      No it isn’t.

      • Smithereens

        Ah – the brave new world – where journalism has died and corporate toadying is rife.

    • Glen Turpin

      This isn’t about Apple controlling the news. This is about Apple controlling how they interact with news media outlets. And they have every right to do so.

      Executive time and attention are finite resources. Every company has to manage its PR activity with those resources in mind, and can choose which executives, if any, speak to which media outlets. High profile companies can’t respond to every request, nor can they trot out their top executive for every request they accept. That should be obvious. The issue here is that Wall Street Journal got a briefing from Tim Cook, while New York Times got a briefing from Phil Schiller, and the Times seems peeved that they got their private advance briefing from someone other than the CEO. The Times has a circulation of 950,000 and the Journal has a circulation of more than 2 million. Given the choice, I’d pick the Journal over the Times too. 

    • “Mrs. Smithereens – and any other woman, for that matter – has every right to control the message about her pregnancy…”No she doesn’t. That’s like saying Governments should control the news.

      • Smithereens

        Mrs. Smithereens pregnancy is not really in the public interest.

    • His Shadow

      Yeah, that’s coming from the same place that believes Apple’s attempt to control it’s platform is censorship. It’s Apple’s platform. What they say, for the most part, goes. Free speech and freedom of access are only applicable to activities for which you as a taxpayer has paid, barring exceptions allowed for by law. As long as Apple is a good corporate citizen, plays within the boundaries of the law and releases what it is obligated to release, it’s future plans, development process and other internal mechanism of Apple are no one’s business but Apple’s.

  • Well-put. It’s sad to see self-absorbed whining about lack of access carry over from bloggers to supposedly professional news outlets.