Journalism organizations discover — belatedly — that Steve Jobs is a control freak
“It’s time for the press to push back at Apple,” reads the headline of Ryan Chittum’s clarion call in Thursday’s
Columbia Journalism Review
“Apple Wants to Own You,” warns
‘s media critic Jack Shafer. “Welcome to our velvet prison, say the boys and girls from Cupertino.”
“What’s insane,” Shafer continues, riffing on Apple’s (AAPL) old “insanely great” marketing gimmick, “is the perimeter mines, tank traps, revetments, and glacis [Steve Jobs has] deployed around these shiny devices to slow software developers to a crawl so he can funnel them through his rapacious toll booth and collect a sweet vig before he’ll let their programs run on your new iDevice.”
What’s got these writers’ knickers in a twist is the news — first reported by Laura McGann at the Nieman Journalism Lab — that Apple had rejected an iPhone app submitted by Mark Fiore, who won a Pulitzer Prize Monday for his online political cartoons. (For samples of his work, see here.)
Fiore is not the first cartoonist to run afoul of the App Store approval process for, in Apple’s words, “ridiculing public figures.” The issue was first raised in November when Apple initially rejected an app illustrated by Tom Richmond, a veteran Mad Magazine cartoonist. (See Apple bans Nancy Pelosi bobble head.)
But that was before the press decided that the iPad and the iTunes Store might be the solution to the cultural and technological changes that are slowly strangling it.
Now some of the same news outlets that gave the iPad rave reviews are combing the tech press for examples of other ways in which Apple tries to control what happens on its platforms.
Not surprisingly, they’ve found plenty to write about. Nearly every writer on this story is quoting Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow’s Why I won’t buy an iPad (and think you shouldn’t, either), in which he accuses Apple of trying to turn the World Wide Web into Wal-Mart.
What they don’t quote is what Doctorow said about them:
So what do the press critics suggest the Fourth Estate do about the heavy hand of Steve Jobs?
The Columbia Journalism Review‘s Chittum is calling for bold action now, “while the press,” as he puts it, “has leverage over Apple.”
His solution: “Unless Apple explicitly gives the press complete control over its ability to publish what it sees fit, the news media needs to yank its apps in protest.”
UPDATE: According to a Wall Street Journal Blog, a representative from Apple called Fiore Thursday and suggested he resubmit his app. “I feel kind of guilty,” Fiore told the Journal‘s Jennifer Valentino-DeVries. “I’m getting preferential treatment because I got the Pulitzer.”
UPDATE 2: According to the
New York Times
, Steve Jobs himself has weighed in on the Fiore flap. In response to a customer’s complaint, Jobs wrote “This was a mistake that’s being fixed.”
[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]