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.