Mike Elgan at Cult of Mac:
Yes, Apple maintains a press “blacklist,” a list of people in the media who are shunned and ignored — “punished,” as it were, for “disloyalty.”
“Blacklisted” reporters, editorialists and media personalities are denied access to information, products and events.
Once you’re on the list, it’s almost impossible to get off. (I’ve been on it for more than a decade.)
Here’s what everyone needs to know about Apple’s press “blacklist.”
Elgan goes on to compare Apple’s media relations to The House Un-American Activities Committee and the Chinese Communist Party.
I wish I was kidding, but I’m not:
And that’s the ultimate goal of any blacklist — McCarthy’s, Chinas or Apple’s: to make honest people lie.
It needs to be said, of course, that comparisons between, say, McCarthyism and Apple’s PR strategy are absurd. I make them here only to illustrate the history and purpose of blacklisting.
An absurd, but long and mostly well-worded comparison, Elgan writes.
(By the way, pasting from Cult of Mac puts Tynt-like material on the clipboard, which is fun.)
Now, it’s easy to make fun of the analogies drawn in this article, but here is the meat of Elgan’s argument:
There’s also an ethical dimension — some stories about Apple involve human rights, environmental problems and other truly serious issues that some people may want to know about. And, indeed, accusations against Apple in these areas are the surest ways to get on the “blacklist.”
For the most part, however, inclusion on the Apple “blacklist” for most journalists appears to result from some combination of criticism, cynicism, or coverage about specific topics — or breaking their “rules” for coverage (such as live-streaming at one of their events). For example, criticizing Steve Jobs, Apple’s history and culture, or super-harshly criticizing their products will gain most journalists lifelong inclusion on the “blacklist.” Being overly speculative, writing with too much certainty about Apple rumors, or speculating about Apple’s motivations in a negative way will usually get reporters and editorialists on the list.
I don’t know why Elgan is on the list, but it’s clear why some sites — like Gizmodo — have been banished from Apple’s press events.
And that’s the thing — unlike true media blackouts, Apple can’t stop people from reporting on its business or products. The company can withhold event invites and review units, but that’s about it.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the company has a list of reporters that it likes, but to think that Apple — or any company — could sway coverage like the governments of the world can. Apple’s treatment of the media could be better, but the company doesn’t have First Amendment-blocking power over independent writers, reporters or media outlets. Again, Elgan:
The difference between what a “whitelisted” and a “blacklisted” person learns is slight. Those of us on the “blacklist” can read what the “whitelisted” people write. Sure, we don’t get early review units or exclusive quotes from executives. We don’t get to boost our access cred with post-announcement product area selfies. But eventually everybody has the same information.
In short, Elgan’s theory is that reporters who write favorable things about Apple will be smiled upon by the company, and those that don’t get the cold shoulder.
What a bitchy thing to do! Apple really is the worst, right? To prey on reporters’ desire to get ahead and make a name for themselves is evil and unheard of outside of Cupertino!
Well, let’s keep reading:
Yes, Apple has a “blacklist.” And, yes, you should know about it so you can be a better-informed media “consumer” and consumer electronics customer.
Ultimately, it’s not that big of a deal. In fact, most companies maintain some elements of a blacklist. Companies exist on a spectrum in the degree to which they reward or punish coverage with the provision or withholding of access to people, products and events.
So Apple’s like most other companies, or even most politicians. So, why write nearly 1500 words on Apple’s media blacklist? The other thing that some say controls the tech media — page views.
(I hope this doesn’t get me blacklisted by Cult of Mac.)