Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist’s iPhone app rejected by Apple App Store [UPDATED]

invisibleSHIELD case for iPadMacDailyNews Note: This article was originally posted at 1:29pm EDT and has since been updated.

“This week cartoonist Mark Fiore made Internet and journalism history as the first online-only journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize. Fiore took home the editorial cartooning prize for animations he created for SFGate, the website for the San Francisco Chronicle,” Laura McGann reports for Neiman Journalism Lab. “I spoke with Fiore about his big win and plans for his business. Fiore is not on staff at the Chronicle, or anywhere else; since 1999, he’s run a syndication business, selling his Flash animations à la carte to TV, newspaper, and magazine websites…”

McGann reports, “When I asked about the next phase of his business, curious if it will include a mobile element, Fiore said he’s definitely hopeful about mobile devices. ‘I think the iPads and anything iPod to iPhone — to maybe a product not made by Apple — will be good or could be good for distributing this kind of thing,’ he said. But there’s just one problem. In December, Apple rejected his iPhone app, NewsToons, because, as Apple put it, his satire ‘ridicules public figures,’ a violation of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, which bars any apps whose content in ‘Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.'”

McGann reports, “Fiore has not resubmitted his app, saying he’d heard about the experiences of others cartoonists and wasn’t in a position to get into a fight with Apple. Still, he has a hunch Apple will eventually change its mind on him, as it has with other cartoon apps. ‘They seem so much more innovative and smarter than that,’ he told me.”

Full article, with more info and samples of Fiore’s work, here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple-C, Apple-V: Public figures exist to be ridiculed. And the whole point of caricature is meant to depict a person or thing with certain striking characteristics exaggerated in order to create a comic and/or distorted effect in the name of instant recognition. Caricature has a very long and important history in politics, entertainment, literature, etc. It’s an art form, not something that should be banned because some politically correct cretan in a Cupertino cubicle thinks there’s a chance that it might offend somebody somewhere. Newsflash: Somebody somewhere will always be offended no matter what.* Sheesh. Thomas Nast is spinning in his grave right now.

Apple blew it. Again… This app should never have been rejected and whoever’s in charge of the college intern(s) in Apple’s App Store approvals department is clearly incompetent enough to be serving in the U.S. [government] themselves.

This falls into exactly the same category as the “I Am Rich” rejection. Apple should make sure that apps are safe to run on iPhone OS and leave taste, or lack thereof, out of the approval equation. It’s not Apple’s responsibility to “protect” people from downloading apps that may offend the downloaders’ or others’ sensibilities. Frankly, nobody much cares if you’re “offended.” STFU and deal with it; we’re beyond tired of all the whining. Nobody’s entitled to a life free of offense and insult, real or imagined. That’s simply not how this planet and the human race work. Attempting to thwart human nature instead of using it constructively is the root of mankind’s folly. We could’ve used “humankind” there, but we didn’t. And, we’re never changing it. Deal with it.

Apple’s only considerations should be to make sure apps do not harm the device and/or encourage physically harming others, directly or indirectly. That’s why we immediately condemned that despicable “Baby Shaker” app and applauded Apple for nixing it. Of course, it never should have been approved in the first place, but we already knew that Apple’s app approval process had major issues long before that particular SNAFU. (And, by the way,” for those that want to bring up FPS or similarly violent games: A defenseless infant is actually different than an armed soldier. If you’re ever in an actual war, you’re supposed to fight the enemy; if you’re ever holding a real baby, you’re never, ever to shake him or her.)

Members of Congress are public figures and political caricatures are part of the deal that comes with holding public office. The fact that these particular caricatures are so innocuous only highlights the severity of Apple’s App Store approval issues.

We don’t know if Apple’s problem is: (a) the quality of the staff they’ve hired to flip the coins they use to determine app approvals; (b) if said staff is totally overwhelmed; (c) if said “staff” is really just that lone not-so-smart MobileMe launch guy whom the new, more mellow Steve didn’t have the heart to fire; or (e) all of the above, but they really ought to have worked it out by now.

When they wake up, people with brains at Apple are likely going to want to correct this one yesterday. The problem is that yesterday has passed. Another looming App Store PR debacle is all that remains.

MacDailyNews Note: Contact Apple via Web form here.

*Trust us on that one. You should read our email.

MacDailyNews Take, November 13, 2009

UPDATE: 2:05pm EDT: Brian Stelter reports for The New York Times, “Mark Fiore, who on Monday became the first online-only cartoonist to win a Pulitzer, for work that ran on the SFGate.com Web site, said this week that his app was rejected by Apple in December because it included cartoons that ridiculed public figures. Cartoons, it turns out, can violate Apple’s license agreement with developers, which states that apps may be rejected if the content ‘may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.'”

“Objectionable, of course, only in the anonymous eyes of Apple,” Stelter writes.

“After winning the Pulitzer prize for editorial cartooning on Monday and telling the Nieman Journalism Lab of his app’s rejection the next day, Mr. Fiore was encouraged by Apple to submit it again. Mr. Fiore re-submitted his app on Friday morning,” Stelter reports. “‘We’ll see what happens,’ he said in a telephone interview… Mr. Fiore said he felt somewhat guilty that his sudden publicity as a Pulitzer winner apparently helped his cause. ‘Sure, mine might get approved, but what about someone who hasn’t won a Pulitzer and who is maybe making a better political app than mine? Do you need some media frenzy to get an app approved that has political material? I wish they would accept decent political material based on merit, not on popularity,’ he said.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Joe J.” and “Switcheroo” for the heads up.]


  1. Got to say that Apple’s in the wrong in this; if they allow the Cagle Cartoon app (which is a collection of political cartoons) they should allow Fiore’s, or a Doonesbury app, or any other app that doesn’t advocate violence. Heck, I’d love to see a Colbert iPad app in the not too distant future…

  2. The entire problem with the app approval process is that you have no one to talk to and there seems to be a high degree of variability depending of who your reviewer is. I submitted an iPad app prior to the iPad launch which was approved by Apple and is currently for sale in the app store. Now that I have an iPad, I have an update to the app with many enhancements since I was unable to test it with an iPad before. I submitted an update to Apple with, but the update was rejected because it had the word pad (not iPad) in the name – a name which was previously approved by them and that I haven’t changed. If you do a search on the app store, there are many already approved apps with pad in the name. Now I have to go through the expense of changing my apps name let alone the resources spent on marketing under the old name.

  3. I wrote to Apple last year when this guy’s app was orginally rejected. Note to all: the story is not new. He hasn’t been rejected again today. It is just today’s story reflecting back on the action Apple took six months ago. It just goes to show how a stupid action can continue to haunt long afterwards.

  4. Who cares if he won a Pulitzer? They enforced their agreement as they should. Changing the agreement is another matter and they shouldn’t have to re-examine their contracts with every app submission.

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