Slate scribe: What’s with the press corps’ crush on Steve Jobs and Apple, anyway?

“I don’t hate Apple. I don’t even hate Apple-lovers. I do, however, possess deep odium for the legions of Apple polishers in the press corps who salute every shiny gadget the company parades through downtown Cupertino as if they were members of the Supreme Soviet viewing the latest ICBMs at the May Day parade,” Jack Shafer writes for Slate.

“The Apple polishers buffed and shined this morning in response to yesterday’s Steve Jobs-led introduction of the new video iPod. The headlines captured their usual adoration for the computer company: ‘Apple Scores One Against Microsoft In Video Battle’ (Seattle Post-Intelligencer); ‘Video iPod Premieres in Apple’s Latest Showcase of Dazzling New Gadgets’ (San Francisco Chronicle); ‘iPod Evolves from Sound to Sight’ (Detroit Free Press); ‘The Video iPod: It Rocks’ (Fortune); ‘Apple Seeds New Markets With Video Version of iPod’ (Globe and Mail),” Shafer writes.

“What explains the press corps’ exuberance for Apple in general and the iPod in particular? After all, the portable video player isn’t a new product category—Archos, RCA, Samsung, and iRiver got there months and months ago. The excitement can’t be due to the undersized screen, which measures only 2.5 inches diagonal, or the skimpy two hours of battery life when operated in video mode. As I paged through a Nexis dump of the V-iPod coverage, I searched in vain for a single headline proclaiming ‘Apple Introduces Ho-Hum Player’ or an article comparing the V-iPod’s technical specs to those of competing brands,” Shafer writes.

“Another thing that sets Apple product launches apart from those of its competition is co-founder Jobs’ psychological savvy. From the beginning, Jobs flexed his powerful reality-distortion field to bend employees to his will, so pushing the most susceptible customers and the press around with the same psi power comes only naturally. Although staffed by dorks and drizzlerods, Apple projects itself and its products as the embodiment of style and cool. The population of Apple’s parallel universe? A paltry 1.8 percent of PCs worldwide,” Shafer writes.

“Still, you’ve got to give Jobs and company credit for producing an aesthetically blessed product and then wisely making it compatible with Windows machines a half-year after its November 2001 introduction rather than fencing it inside the Mac ghetto. In doing so, Apple gave Windows users a way to partake of the Apple mystique for $300 without having to buy a new computer, learn a new operating system, and invest in replacement software,” Shafer writes.

Full treatment here.

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This article is preceded with the message, “Download the iPod-ready audio version of this story here, or sign up to get all of Slate’s free daily podcasts.” Another interesting thing to note is that Slate seems to really, really, really needs the hits, but they don’t seem to be able to produce anything better than this amateurish attempt at an Apple hit piece.

Slate’s morning meeting must have featured something like this, “You know, Jack, we really should do an Apple/Mac/iPod hit piece. They say those things bring in plenty of traffic. Righto, I’ll bang one out after coffee.” Shafer’s piece comes off as a pasted-together conglomeration of every anti-Apple article he could find online.

Jack’s being honest when he says he doesn’t hate Apple or even “Apple-lovers.” He doesn’t know enough about either to have an opinion. In the future, Jack really ought to stick to writing his “Tom and Katie” stories and forget about trying to co-opt Apple, the Mac, and iPod for hits.

Slate is no longer owned by Microsoft (The Washington Post has decided to lose their money with it now), but Slate does remain a part of Microsoft’s MSN web portal: http://slate.msn.com/

35 Comments

  1. “Still, you’ve got to give Jobs and company credit for producing an aesthetically blessed product and then wisely making it compatible with Windows machines a half-year after its November 2001 introduction rather than fencing it inside the Mac ghetto. In doing so, Apple gave Windows users a way to partake of the Apple mystique for $300 without having to buy a new computer, learn a new operating system, and invest in replacement software,” Shafer writes.

    Can someone please translate this sloppy FUD rhetoric? I don’t get it. He’s talking about Virtual PC or.. ugh.. my head hurts..

  2. Yeah, why would the press be interesting in 1) products that people are interested in, even a bit obsessed about and 2) the presentation of said products by a bigger-than-life showman CEO? What about that could possibly be more interesting than the report of fourth quarter results for a tool and die company?

    I feel the same way when I see the press talking about Angelina Jolie. What about her could possibly be more press-worthy than my neighbor Herb down the street?

  3. Other companies may have had similar products before apple, they may even be better products – the point is that none of them inspired the public to any degree, The iPod made it onto the front page of the Daily Telegraph here in the UK! The iPod (with video) has single handedly started the market for purchasable downloadable video content which can only be a good thing.

    “staffed by dorks and drizzlerods” who the hell works for Microsoft then?

  4. I was thinking the exact same thing as I was reading the article (MDN take). Good eye for this blatant attempt.

    On the flip side, perhaps all these articles full of “exuberance” are attempting the same thing. “yawn” … you can’t pick on sides when your on both.

  5. Maybe the reality of Apple is in the way Sir Steve handles himself when compared with the dough boy from MafiaSoft. Sir Steve is just plain class, where as the dough boy is just one big sweaty jumping pig at a company that puts out products that force you to fight the OS and their apps….Actually do their own apps really work insanely great with their own OS…now that’s another debate.

  6. It doesn’t surprise me that MDN trashes this line of thinking — he glorifies this kind of stuff.

    The truth is that there are VERY VERY few fair articles about Apple and their products. It’s all either love-fest writing which doesn’t even bother to compare Apple’s products to their competitors’ offerings (here’s a tip: if a review doesn’t hold a product up against its peers, then the product is probably lacking in some area. tread carefuly), or else it’s bashing and marginalizing (FUD, as y’all like to say here).

    They make good products. They are successful products, owing in some part to the volume & type of media coverage they receieve. That media coverage is almost never journalistic in nature, but the masses don’t seem to notice/care.

    “Apple polishers.” I like that. I’m gonna start using that instead of “sheep” to describe you people. (those of you who are NOT sheep know who you are.)

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