Day Lyons, aka Fake Steve Jobs, has retired his online satirical column on news of Steve Jobs’ medical leave of absence. Lyons did this last time Jobs took medical leave, saying it was in bad taste to impersonate the CEO while he was sick.
This time around, Lyons has some harsh words for reporters who will inevitably pry into Jobs’ health:
I’m sure there will be stories where some reporter talks to people who know Jobs—his friends, his neighbors—and tries to wheedle out some tidbit of information.
I fear there will be stories where some dirtbag (last time it was a guy from Forbes) hangs around outside bars near the Apple campus and ambushes half-drunk Apple engineers, asking them if they’ve seen Steve lately.
I’m sure there will also be stories where a reporter talks to cancer specialists and tries to get them to speculate on what might be wrong with Jobs this time. They’ll talk about life expectancies for people, like Jobs, who have had liver transplants after suffering pancreatic cancer. They will try to make this all seem respectable. They will claim the cancer doc stories represent a kind of “teaching moment,” an opportunity to explain some arcane medical stuff to the regular folk.
They will rationalize the prying story by saying that Apple is a public company and investors need—nay, deserve—this information.
The truth is, there is no real news value to any of this stuff. The only real value to any of these stories is that they generate page views. And the guys who are doing it, whether they write for a blog or for The New York Times, know the truth of what they’re doing, and they do it anyway.
I’m not sure I agree with Lyons. It’s human nature to be curious about someone as fascinating as Steve Jobs. And part of that is knowing what’s wrong with him if he’s sick. It’s the first question everyone asks: “What’s wrong with Steve Jobs?”
Reporters are responding to that curiosity. They know it’s the first questions readers ask. And without hard, factual information from Apple, they turn to experts, colleagues or friends who know, or who may be in a position to provide informed speculation.
On the other hand, I can understand Jobs’ request for privacy. I wouldn’t like my health discussed in public. But he’s a public figure. And unfortunately, losing some of your privacy comes with the job.