In a well-researched and wonderfully written story on the role of the media in the making of Apple and its CEO Steve Jobs,Paul Farhi of the Washington Post suggests that it was the media over the years that ultimately put Jobs into the center of his own creation at Apple.
Farhi suggests that the technology reporters over the years were, in many cases, the primary vehicle through which Jobs and Applebecame the household names they are today. He asserts it was reporters and technology writers who were the original fanboys and fangirls, and that adulation of all things Jobs may have played a major role in making Apple and its products image of beingbetter than the rest and just plain cool.
Farhi may well be right. Initially, of course, those of us who write about technology liked Apple because the company was doing things that made news. While they may have used a similar processor to other computers of the time, Apple seemed tomake things work better, so they were more fun to write about. They had color and, eventually, they had sound that was more than just beeps. They had cool software. When we looked at Apple there was always a story.
Perhaps equally important, in the early days Steve Jobs was reasonably accessible. If he thought you were going to give him and Apple a good story he'd happily talk to you about all sorts of things. And, of course, we'd all go write about what he said would happen. Contrast this with the other powerhouses of the day, and Jobs was a breath of fresh air. Getting an interview out of IBM meant either talking to a midlevel engineer with no access to future direction or getting blown off by the senior level executives.
Bill Gates at Microsoft was also highly accessible until the later years, when he had become a gazillionaire and wasn't really running Microsoft anyway. Today's leaders of Microsoft don't talk to the press directly and rarely answer questions at press conferences. Perhaps this explains why Microsoft isn't a darling to the media-it's hard to talk to them, especially these days
But Jobs was accessible, at least to journalists he liked. Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal would get called at home by Jobs to be told about whatever was new. Mossberg, in turn, would write rich, detailed pieces about Apple and Jobs. While few were as favored as Mossberg, many in the media were smiled upon by the Great Man, and got their stories. They appreciated his attention, and that helped to build his reputation. It sometimes got to be a contest.
During the late '90s and early 2000s, it was very common to sit in a story meeting and hear one story pitch after another in which one reporter or another wanted to write something about Apple.