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Why Steve Jobs is (Legitimately) Pissed at the Media

I wasn’t present at Friday’s special iPhone 4 Press Conference held by Apple at their Cupertino Campus, but I followed the excellent live coverage from Jason Snell at Macworld. Ignoring the specifics of the announcements (spoiler: there is no fucking recall you fucktards), one thing jumped out at me: Steve Jobs was palpably angry with the media.

In the process of providing actual hard data regarding the impact of the antenna issues (hint, not fucking much) Steve called out no less than three separate organizations for their shoddy coverage. First, of course, was the douche collective over at Jizzmodo. The less said about those felonious fuckwits the better, so I’ll leave it at that. In addition, during the Q&A portion of the event, Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall denied anonymously sourced reports by BusinessWeek and the New York Times regarding the issue calling them “bullshit” and patently false” respectively.

In addition to those specific examples Steve had some choice comments about the press in general. Here’s Jason Snell’s report of what Steve Said:

In search of eyeballs for websites, people don’t care what they leave in their wake. So I look at this whole thing and say, wow. Apple’s been around for 34 years. Haven’t we earned the credibility and trust from some of the press to give us a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, of our motivations, the fact that we’re confident and will solve these problems. I think we have that trust from our users, but I didn’t see that in the press. This thing was blown so far out of proportion. But I’m not going to say we’re not at fault. We didn’t educate enough.

Now to be clear here, unlike some others in the Twitterverse I don’t think that Steve is asking for a free pass from the press here. I think that he’s expressing his dismay over how the press, in the complete absence of any actual hard evidence, blew this issue completely out of proportion to the point where a camera-hog Senator felt compelled to get in on the action.

And let’s be clear here. This story was blown out of proportion. Does the iPhone 4 have a spot that, when blocked, causes signal attenuation? Yes, as do all modern smartphones. Is this situation acerbated by the fact that the iPhone 4’s antenna is placed outside of the casing? Yes, but that decision demonstrably improves reception in the vast majority of situations. The bottom line is, this was a “debacle” almost entirely created by the press.

As I was driving to get lunch after the press conference it came to me why I so identify with Steve Jobs’ reaction: I’ve been in the same position.

More than once in my career I’ve been in a situation where something has gone wrong, sometimes catastrophically wrong. During situations like that, when every available hand is on deck trying to fix the problem, the most enraging thing in the world is a chorus of people who have no data, no real understanding of the issue, or even an understanding of the principles involved with the issue demanding answers NOW!

That’s the role that the press has taken during this debacle. Unquestioningly repeating the claims of anyone who was willing to make a comment, speculating about technical issues that they were patently unqualified to comment on, and demanding that Apple act NOW NOW NOW to resolve the issue. And speaking of just horrible reporting; the less said of Consumer Reports embarrassing flip-flopping the better.

In a situation like this there comes a time when someone has to stand up and say “enough.” Again, I’ve been there. I’ve had to stand in the middle of an engineering bullpen and tell the CEO of my company that every minute I spend answering panicked emails and attending blamestorming conference calls was a minute that I wasn’t spending fixing the fucking problem.

That’s basically what Steve Jobs did on Friday. He got up on stage, explained that this issue wasn’t as bad as it was being made out to be, told the people that mattered how it would be resolved, and told the harpies to shut the fuck up. I’m glad he finally got pissed off enough to do it.