Shoddy reporting from Reuters

Reuters posted an article this morning about how blind and deaf people want more from Apple in making apps accessible. I’m all for this, and from what I’ve seen from Apple over the years, they are in favor of improving accessibility features in OS X and iOS too.

However, one thing that stopped me in my tracks while reading the article is a quote the Reuters reporter used from Apple CEO Tim Cook’s speech at Auburn University in 2013.

Here’s what the reporter used in the story:

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook in a 2013 speech at Auburn University described people with disabilities “in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged.” He said, “They’re frequently left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others.”

Here’s what Tim actually said:

“People with disabilities often find themselves in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged, they frequently are left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others, but Apple’s engineers push back against this unacceptable reality, they go to extraordinary lengths to make our products accessible to people with various disabilities from blindness and deafness to various muscular disorders. I receive hundreds of e-mails from customers every day, and I read them all. Last week I received one from a single mom with a three year old autistic son who was completely non-verbal, and after receiving an iPad, for the first time in his life, he had found his voice. I receive scores of these incredible stories from around the world and I never tire of reading them.” “We design our products to surprise and delight everyone who uses them, and we never, ever analyze the return on investment. We do it because it is just and right, and that is what respect for human dignity requires, and its a part of Apple I’m especially proud of.”

Dear Reuters, you fucking morons: You can’t pick and choose which parts of a quote you want to use to fill the narrative of a story you already have written. You could have written a fine story about accessibility and everyone would have agreed with you, but what you did is show your lack of integrity, essentially harming a very important message about accessibility.

Next time, stick to the facts.

  • I don’t think this is shoddy reporting. Sure, Cook went on to explain the great things that Apple is doing to combat the problems, but he still pointed out the problems in the speech. And I think that’s all that Reuters was pointing out.

    • Larry Davis

      Agreed. I read the story as Apple is leading in accessibility and that quote from Cook was simply to underscore the problem.

      • Sigivald

        Yeah. I mean, it’d be NICE to include more of the rest of the quote to show Cook actively engaged on the issue.

        But Cook’s statement is basically a press release in verbal form, too (even if he’s perfectly sincere, as I think he is), and I don’t want quoted press releases in my reporting.

        • The Gnome

          Its not shoddy its just sloppy… and typical.

          • Larry Davis

            It’s neither. You can’t include the entire passage as you have length limits on articles.

    • Mantrax

      It’s easy to “want more”. Focus on what the article says those people want – they want Apple to require that third apps are accessible to blind people.

      The example given is Linked-In. It’s not Apple’s fault that Linked-In botched their accessibility.

      Go through the AppStore and imagine what this would mean for the apps you see that day. It’s not a reasonable demand to mandate this, it’s up to the developers to decide if they app can be made accessible, and if they have the staff and resources to do it.

      We all want to live in a dream land where the blind can draw in painting apps and play shooting game apps, but the reality is it’ll never be the case that all apps will be accessible to blind folks. But the apps that are, are already doing a lot to keep them connected and engaged with the world.

  • TomCrown

    This is a non story link bait article like most that have Apple in the heading.

    The article points out that Google is selling more phones than Apple but it should be Apple that does more for accessibility despite the fact that Apple is leading in accessibility.

    Pointing out in the second last paragraph about the additionally added accessibility features in iOS 8 and working closely with hearing aid companies, etc.

    Howard Rosenblum, chief executive officer of the National Association of the Deaf, wants more. “Any app should be accessible to everyone,” he said. The onus should be on the developers to address that not for Apple to mandate developers do the right thing.

  • Bob Dylan

    Give me a break, Jim.

    Anything that goes against your Apple narrative is “shoddy reporting.” Let’s be real: this practice is being performed throughout the industry, and just because someone reports on Apple in a manner that doesn’t fit with your narrative doesn’t mean it’s shoddy or disrespectful, let alone conducted by “fucking morons” as you put it.

    • Zepfhyr

      I don’t think you’re the real Bob Dylan.


    • youre argument doesnt make sense. you begin by saying its acceptable because other people do it it too — yet that is false. then you prop up a straw man that jim’s position is based on whether they fit his narrative — yet that isnt his argument at all. his argument is that cherry-picking quotes is shoddy reporting. you havent address or taken down that position.

    • Seth

      Don’t bite the hand that feeds Bob. I hear Tim is vetting all future iPod add work with Jim.

    • Not really. The article mentions Apple twice in the context of not being the best of allies before the article points out that the problematic app they are highlighting was made by LinkedIn. The intent is clearly to put Apple in the same pile with the other technology manufacturers when that simply is not the case. The chopped quote is practically a lie of omission.Given that the truncated quote is followed by this line:

      The company declined to comment on its accessibility strategy or whether developers should be required to make apps accessible.

      “‘Technology sucks’, says Cook, ‘and we decline to talk about our highly public efforts in this regard that you clearly don’t feel like searching for or referencing’.”

  • Mantrax

    The Loop’s front page doesn’t show who wrote a piece, just the article.

    But I know: if there’s a lot of swearing in it, it’s Jim.

    • yeah, it is really annoying that you cant know who wrote the blog post youre reading w/o clicking into its comments.

      and that comments arent event there on iphone. because…first class web citizen?? doesnt make sense.

  • DarthVaderSaysNO

    They can’t help it. Apple headlines generate clicks and clicks generate cash.

    By the way, I’m quoting you on my next post. Here’s the snippet.

    “Dear Reuters, you” are great and you “have written a fine story about accessibility” said Jim of The Loop.

  • Dan Weston

    It’s hard to believe that Apple is leaving people with disabilities in the shadows while providing stuff like this:

  • Seth

    Whilst the general idea of the Reuters article is ok (ie that Apple (and to a lesser degree Google) are doing good things for accessibility, they could do more), it is, however, shoddy writing. As Jim notes, the Cook quote should have given a more accurate impression of what he said.

    The worst piece, however, was this: “The company declined to comment on its accessibility strategy”. Um did you ask a sales rep just before knock off time or send Apple an email 5 minutes before your deadline?

    Try this:

    Not just one but several pages about Apple’s strategy that Reuters could have pointed out if it was interested in giving an accurate picture of Apple’s commitment to accessibility. I’m 99% confident that Apple would have commented on its strategy (if only by pointing out these pages) if Reuters had given it a reasonable opportunity to do so.

    Not just one but several pages about Apple’s strategy that Reuters could have pointed out if it was interested in giving an accurate picture of Apple’s commitment to accessibility. I’m 99% confident that Apple would have commented on its strategy (if only by pointing out these pages) if Reuters had given it a reasonable opportunity to do so.

    The article also fails to mention that nearly all Android devices have broken accessibility due to the various skins that OEMs put over the otherwise reasonably accessible stock Android. I guess Google is trying to fix this by pushing for more stock Android devices, but the key point is that accessibility is far better with iOS than with Android in the here and now.

    Should Apple require accessibility for all apps – probably not in the short term because only a relatively small percentage of apps will ever be actually used by people with impairments. That said, Apple should work with key developers (eg Linked In) to help them improve their accessibility and should be working towards a minimum accessibility standard to be required for new apps and all apps further down the line. Some of this could be baked into future versions of Xcode (eg requiring buttons to have labels etc).

    Should Apple rate apps by accessibility – probably yes, but just how that will happen is another question. If I were Tim or his report responsible for accessibility, I’d set up a meeting with key external stakeholders to develop a rating system. It could be a mixture of automatic (scanning apps for things like missing button labels) and manual (ratings from recognised advocacy groups etc) measures.

    • Even better. Commenters in the forums can find this information, but a person whose actual job requires them to research the topics on which they write can’t be bothered to do so.

  • Moeskido

    Reporting like this has never been acceptable. I think it’s good that we are in a position to publicly fact-check stories like this, and call them out on their apparent predispositions.

  • freediverx

    Brilliant. Thanks, Jim, for saying wha needed to be said.