Does Apple Blacklist Reporters?

You may remember about a year ago I wrote about how the hype around Apple is so great that they are often credited with doing things first – even though they clearly haven’t. For example the iPad 2 was not the first tablet with a dual-core processor but many still reported incorrectly.

I further went on to explain how Apple and some other companies dole out favors based upon good press. In other words, write a negative article about a company and you are added to a list which ensures you won’t get early access to products and services or even answers to questions you pose to the company’s PR team.

Jason O’Grady at ZDNet goes into detail about how this process works at Apple – basically a blacklist is in place to ensure reporters who cover rumors or write something negative are “punished.” He knows a great deal about the company because he has been sued by Cupertino in the past.

Here is an excerpt:

Case in point: On February 7 when Arun Thampi posted on his blog that Path was sneakily uploading iPhone user’s address books to its server — without permission — I called and emailed Apple. Apple didn’t reply. Then and I blogged about it.

On February 8 when Dustin Curtis blogged that Apple makes a standard practice of approving apps that upload the entire contents of your iOS address book to developer’s servers I again called and emailed Apple. Apple didn’t reply. Then I blogged about it.

Later. Rinse. Repeat.

Then I got an idea. Since Apple PR never responds to my voicemails or emails, maybe they’d respond to the guys that do have access. So I contacted several prominent Apple pundits (who shall remain nameless) that are known for their access to Apple (some of whom get replies from Apple “every time”) and I asked them to enquire about Apple’s stance on enforcing its policy on address book uploads.

And you know what? None of them would do it.

(Update: ironically there’s a couple of exclusive stories out today about Mac OS 10.8/Mountain Lion which certain members of the Mac Illuminati had access to a week early.)

I reached out to Apple about this alleged practice but haven’t heard back.

I think I have been extremely fair to Apple in the past – I have been accused of being both an Apple hater and lover – which tells me I straddling the line fairly well. When I have found room for improvement I generally haven’t sugar coated my thoughts.

Now if Apple is indeed using its considerable power to ensure journalists have to write nice things, I would say the behavior is unethical.

It is worth mentioning that this exact same behavior takes place with politicians who punish certain news anchors who don’t say nice things about them. Likewise for celebrities who feel they were snubbed by a talk show. The punishment comes in the form of not appearing on the targeted program or a refusal to be interviewed by a specific reporter or host.

People have egos and companies are made up of people and subsequently also have egos.

But Apple is big enough now that it needs to change the way it looks at the press. Our job is to do what is in the best interest of our readership, not a specific company. It is a shame that writers would have to sacrifice their journalistic ethics to ensure they get early access to information they need to be competitive.

In my request to Apple, I also mentioned I am a shareholder – which I am. Will this aid in getting a response on such a potentially sensitive topic? I will let you know.

One final point, the general news media and a bunch of protesters are unhappy about the fact that Apple uses Chinese workers to make their products. Think this through. 60-90% of all the products we all buy in the US come from China and for some reason people are upset we get iPhones from there?

I believe it is quite hypocritical to criticize just Apple on this point. The people complaining should go after The GAP, every mall in the country, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Dell and empty their own homes and wardrobes of Chinese products before opening their mouths.

So yes, I am defending Apple on this issue – they are no worse than Nokia and all the other consumer electronics manufacturers in the world.

But when it comes to denying access to reporters who speak their minds or cover rumors about your company – I think this practice is terrible and should cease.

I am not optimistic about getting a response from Apple but regardless, my first loyalty will always be to my readers – even if I am a shareholder. On a related note, it is interesting to note that Apple has such good will in the world, short of Tim Cook posting a video of himself shooting an elephant, Apple can do no wrong in the eyes of the world.

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