Press Ticked Off at Apple – and Each Other

Emotions are flaring in the media in the wake of Steve Jobs’ announcement earlier this week that he plans to take a five month leave of absence for health reasons.

While the announcement from Apple was straightforward (a terse e-mail from Jobs to employees), It comes only a week after Jobs downplayed his health issues as a hormone imbalance he was being treated for. Jobs is a survivor of a rare form of treatable pancreatic cancer.

“That announcement was more like a Facebook status line,” said Nell Minnow, founder of The Corporate Library, told “This is the ultimate, alpha example of a problem [with disclosure] we see at a lot of big companies, but in this case Steve Jobs is the brand, the asset.”

With the possibility of investor lawsuits looming, news outlets, including this one, have been digging in to Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) lack of forthrightness on its CEO’s health and whether even this week’s admission by Jobs that his issues are “more complicated” than he said last week, goes far enough.

Over at CNBC, a verbal food fight erupted Thursday when a guest panelist suggested the cable channel’s Silicon Valley bureau chief owed viewers an apology for towing to Apple’s earlier line that Jobs was fine. “You should apologize to your viewers for having gotten it so wrong,” Dan Lyons said to CNBC’s Jim Goldman. He also said “Apple has played fast and loose with the truth for six or eight months now.”

Lyons, who now works at Newsweek, wrote the wickedly, satirical fakestevejobs blog until last year. He reportedly canceled the blog out of concern over Jobs’ health.

By that measure, he has no concerns over Goldman’s health, ripping the TV reporter on air.

“There are two kinds of reporters, the kind that are snowed and realize they’re getting played by Apple, and the other kind that suck up in order to get access, that get played and punked like your Valley bureau chief,” said Lyons.

But the timing of Lyons’ critique was ironic. Goldman had just got done questioning Apple’s credibility given the turnabout of Jobs’ latest announcement.

“What has happened the past week is bordering on deplorable,” said Goldman. “I don’t understand how Steve Jobs himself can come forward just a week ago that he is suffering from an easily treatable hormonal imbalance and how in a matter of mere days he suffered this medical whiplash and all of a sudden he needs a six month leave of absence because these health issues have suddenly become far more complex. It just doesn’t work at all.”

As for Lyons’ specific charges, Goldman said he can only report what his sources tell him “which I trust” and what he hears from Apple.

What to believe?

It all quite amusing to longtime tech pundit John C. Dvorak, known for his acerbic column in PC Mag.

“I love it,” said Dvorak.

But although he’s never been shy about criticizing tech companies, including Apple, Dvorak said he’s taking a wait-and-see attitude on whether Jobs deliberately misled or lied about his condition. Apple told earlier this week, that Jobs’ e-mail on his leave of absence is the only information the company could provide on the matter.

“The question everyone wants to know that’s relatively simple, but no one wants to bring up is, ‘is Steve Jobs dying?’ But as far as I’m concerned, if Apple says he’s not and Steve says he’s not, I assume he’s not,” Dvorak told

“But if it turns out Apple has gone out of its way to play the media, they’ll pay a price for that. As a publicly held company, there’ll be hell to pay.”

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