Apple vs New York Times: Not Really but It Seemed Interesting

Anyone following Apple knows that the New York Times wrote a series of very critical articles about the Foxconn that makes iPads and iPods for Apples.  And to be fair, the facility makes produces for other electronics companies as well.  The focus of the article was on the working conditions and why electronics are no longer manufactured in the U.S.  Most people who read the articles would agree that the articles cast Apple in a negative light.  Moreover, a number of protests against Apple were appearing at this time as well.  You can see the earlier case about it at this site.

 

That brings us the supposed fight between Apple and the New York Times.  A number of online sources reported that Apple had snubbed the New York Times by not providing its reporters early access to its OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion operating system.  Here is a sample of the reports:

 

Apple Shuns The New York Times in OS X Mountain Lion Coverage Over Foxconn Reporting

Friday February 17, 2012 7:14 am PST by Eric Slivka

With yesterday’s announcements from Apple regarding its forthcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion operating system, a number of media outlets had been provided with advance briefings and early copies of the software for the purposes of having reviews prepared and ready to go. When Apple published its press release and went live with OS X Mountain Lion information at 8:30 AM Eastern yesterday, the embargo was lifted and all of the pre-briefed publications immediately posted their stories on the topic.

 

February 21, 2012

Snubbing the Media — Strategy or Revenge? Apple’s Stiff-Arming Of the NY Times After Paper’s Foxconn Exposé Offers a PR Lesson In Access Journalism — Gadget Giant Leaves Gray Lady Out In the Cold By Breaking News Elsewhere

Times all-star contributing columnist David Pogue got through to Schiller, but no regular Times journalist could make a dent. The reason for all this disrepect, the Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple speculates, was the hard-hitting Foxconn series the Times’ ran last month. Foxconn assembles roughly 40% of the world’s electronic devices, including those sold by Dells, HP and Sony — but the Times‘ series singled out Apple in way that many, including CEO Cook, thought was misleading and unfair. Was the cold shoulder the Gray Lady got this week really payback for the series? Reporters and editors at the Times seem to think so, Fortune reports.

The implications from the reporter were that Apple was purposeful not providing the New York Times with same early access to information it was providing other journalists.  In essence, the view was Apple was punishing the New York Times for its negative story.  This is a serious charge.  Organizations have every right to decide who they send information to and who they do not.  This point should not be disputed.  However, denying access because of a negative story is a dangerous measure.  At its worst, such an action is an attempt at censorship.  The message is, “mess with us and you pay a price.”  Journalists need to be free to write whatever they feel is appropriate and accurate.  PR people should not corrupt the system by trying to leverage any form of influence over them.  Here is how report described the situation:

 

Was the cold shoulder the Gray Lady got this week really payback for the series?  Reporters and editors at the Times seem to think so. Wemple got two quotes, one off the record, one on:

“They are playing access journalism … I’ve heard it from people inside Apple: They said, look, you guys are going to get less access based on the iEconomy series.”

“We’re never happy with our access to Apple. We never have been. Apple is a difficult company to report on,” says Damon Darlin, the paper’s tech editor. When asked how big a deal is the Journal‘s exclusive with Cook, Darlin responds: “Talking to the CEO of one of the largest technology companies, the highest-valued company of the world? Yes, we would like to do that. They know that.”

However, most reports were amended because there is no proof purposeful action by Apple to freeze out the New York Times.  Apple had briefed reporters before the release but asked for an embargo on stories until a specific time.  Most people based the negative actions by Apple on the New York Times key technology reporter David Pogue’s story was “slow” in appearing after the embargo was lifted and used information from the news release, not the information found in the early briefings.  Later reports included other reporters saying they saw Pogue waiting for a briefing and Pogue stated he had access to the early information.  In the end, the story was a non-story but did allow reporters to vent their frustration with Apple’s generally unresponsive nature to “the media.”

Questions to Consider

1.  If a company was restricting access to a media source after a negative story, could you justify that action?  Why or why not?

2.  What ethical issues are raised in this case especially those about quick, online reports?

3.  What do the tone of the stories saying about Apple’s reputation and relationship with many online and legacy media reporters?

4.  What responsibility does David Pogue have for correcting the story that he had been snubbed by Apple?  How did you reach that conclusion?

5.  Why has Apple used a limited access policy toward the media?  Has it been an effective strategy?  Why or why not?

 

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