The Steve Jobs Story grows curiouser and curiouser


It is Sunday in Tennessee. Since there are Sunday editions of many papers in the state, we’re now 38 or so hours into a curious lack of any coverage (in print or online) by local media attempting to verify where exactly in Tennessee Steve Jobs had a liver transplant two months ago, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. By now, reporters have checked sources and obviously, have come up blank in their attempts to verify the Wall Street Journal’s story. But the WSJ being the WSJ, it’s a rare editor of a local newspaper who would ever run a story saying, “We can’t verify what the WSJ is reporting eventhough we know personally all sorts of people who work at local hospitals and no one will confirm it.”

One of Steve Jobs’ local newspapers, The San Jose Mercury, like all newspapers, was forced to interview transplant surgeons who can only speculate about the surgery and why Jobs chose Tennessee. However, because the paper is treating the story as a “local” one, it’s worth noting what Lisa Krieger, one of its reporters, heard from longtime transplant surgeon Dr. Oscar Salvatierra of Stanford University’s School of Medicine, who speculated why Jobs traveled to Tennessee for the procedure, “It is likely not a wait-list issue but rather one of maintaining privacy. I would suspect he sought to stay away from the area in which he works, and where people know him.” (As a sidenote, the Mercury article reports a promising prognosis on the liver transplant treatment. But again, it notes: “Stanford University holds the nation’s best one-year survival statistics for liver-transplant recipients.”)

So, while there’s nothing really new that has come out in this story, the “handling” of it — how it was first reported and the way it has been managed since it was first released — is now under-going real-time analysis by some smart people who are worth taking note of.

The oddities of the original story

John Gruber does a point-by-point breakdown of the original Wall Street Journal article to display the many oddities it contains. He touches on the Tennessee questions the story raises, but does not answer. For example, the assumption that the procedure took place in Memphis has not yet been established as fact (the WSJ story does not say which city it took place in, but rumors have swirled about Jobs being in Memphis).

Still more smoke than fire

Joe Wilcox analyzed the “media manipulation tactics” of the story’s handling to deduce its purpose is to, he believes, prepare the market for an announcement that Steve Jobs isn’t coming back to work this month. This is a premise he first wrote about on June 5 when he implied that another Wall Street Journal article by Yukari Iwatani Kane and Joann Lublin (the same by-line team on Friday night’s story) was transparent media manipulation by Apple’s masters of such.

Rule 1

“Release bad news on a Friday night” is one of those anctient truisms of corporate communications that today seems to be accepted as a part of their profession’s Ten Commandments. This is one of those stories — obviously leaked by Apple insiders as part of a strategy approved personally by Jobs — that makes an Apple watcher like myself again marvel at how everything the company does, even manipulate the news, they do so with a mastery of engineering and design.

I have no doubt Steve Jobs was and is a very sick person. I hope and pray for his recovery.

But I don’t get the benefit of him handling this news in the same way Apple handles a product release.

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  • Wondering About

    How can a guy who doesn’t qualify for pancreas transplant, based on the fact that he’s already been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, how does this guy get himself moved to the front of the line for a liver transplant? Nearly everyone on a liver transplant wait list dies before a liver becomes available. Which means Jobs must have bought a foreign organ or else he received a live donor partial organ transplant. Did he get a kidney too? Did he buy an Asian pancreas to go with the new liver and kidney? Or did a Tennessee transplant center violate U.S. organ transplant guidelines?

    Remember, the last story about Jobs’ condition was all about nutritional absorption issues–not tumors, not mets to major organs, which was obviously the real story back then.

    Jobs has more money than God so there’s no question he can afford to buy the organs he needs. The question is how many.

  • Typically, I wouldn’t approve such anonymous comments as the one above, but I’d like to respond to it: I don’t give a rats ass how much money Steve Jobs has — I would put in the front of any line. And despite the many times I’ve criticized Jobs on this blog for some management decision, if I were in line in front of him for a liver transplant, I would gladly exchange places. If it were not for Mr. Jobs, the success I’ve enjoyed in business would not have been possible — his vision and tenacity created nearly all of the technology that has leveled the playing field between me and giant companies that would have been insurmountable competitors if I had tried to do what I’ve done before Steve Jobs made it possible. (And I won’t even go into the direct number of jobs he’s created or the people his movies (Pixar) has inspired.) Not to be insensitive, but any guideline that doesn’t take into account “contribution to mankind” needs re-thinking. Jobs is the Thomas Edison / Henry Ford of our era. With their dark-sides — and their were significant ones — I think we would have wanted to do whatever possible to extend their ability to contribute to the world.

  • itsmenyc

    Many people require liver transplants do to alcoholism and drug abuse. So one could argue that a person who is innocent of abusing their body should be ahead of someone who did.

  • Stu

    @wondering about:
    I can’t provide the reference right now, but I saw figures the other day that critical people spend about 21 days on the transplant list, and I personally know someone that got a liver/kidney transplant six weeks ago. You might want to take a deep breath before writing.

  • Wondering About

    I’m not happy about Jobs’ condition either. As the blog author says, Jobs’ contributions are enormous. No doubt everyone involved in his care decisions will want to do everything possible to make his survival more likely.

    The article I read about guidelines for pancreas transplant precluding patients with pancreatic cancer said that the reason is because pancreatic cancers are so aggressive that the transplanted pancreas is certain to quickly become diseased. I looked this up hoping to find that Jobs could have benefitted from a pancreas transplant, possibly as part of a multi-organs transplant procedure. But what I found was that pancreas transplants are not even considered in cases of pancreatic cancer.

    News stories on Jobs’ liver transplant have been riddled with obvious, glaring omissions — like not mentioning that he’s already undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer. Like not addressing the question of whether other major organs besides the liver are now involved. From what is known the logical conclusions are either that a man at the end stages of an awful terminal disease has just been put through a horrible, grueling procedure that will only slightly prolong the inevitable — OR that he’s received much more radical and unorthodox treatments than his spokespersons have admitted to.

    Good news for your friend. There are big variations in wait times across the country. It’s been a few years since I looked into it but I’m not aware that a majority of liver transplant patients now survive until transplant. If so that’s a big positive step.

    @ itsmenyc:
    I believe that liver transplant patients with alcoholic cirrhosis have to abstain from drinking as a condition of being listed for transplant. I have to believe the same would apply for IV drug abusers. Transplant criteria are supposed to be all about admitting patients who are likely to survive.