A slow but steady outcry has been building up within the web-based Mac press over the revocation of GraphicPower’s media credentials for the upcoming Macworld New York Conference and Expo. Unfortunately, some in the Mac web have turned it into an ill-informed, inbred hissyfit based mainly on second and thirdhand reports, and the idea that if two or more sites quote the same piece of innuendo it qualifies as “confirmed by independent sources.”
Distilled down to the barest facts, here’s the story: GraphicPower Editor Scott McCarty was informed by PR firm MS&L that his media credentials had been issued in error, and were being rescinded.
The note from MS&L McCarty quotes on his website says GraphicPower is being denied credentials “because the guidelines to receive a badge stipulate that outlets featuring coverage on rumors and speculation are not eligible for a media pass.”
Some sites have been quick to contend that GraphicPower doesn’t feature rumor and speculation, and I really don’t disagree. The problem is, that for the most part, GraphicPower didn’t feature anything at all, as even the most rudimentary investigating shows.
Aside from a farewell letter to its readers, GraphicPower’s most recent piece of original content was published in April. (Following that, there were also two May 3rd postings: a press release on the announcement of Font Agent X, and a blurb to let readers know that the GraphicPower.com domain had lapsed and was now re-propagating.)
That means the GraphicPower site had been stagnant for over two months – not a good way to make the case that you’re a viable journalistic endeavor.
The month of March apparently brought GraphicPower readers two stories: one on Mac OS X a year after its introduction; the other on the “State of the Mac Web” – part three in a fairly in-depth (albeit non-graphics-industry-related) look at how small Mac sites get their financing. If there are other stories available on GraphicPower beyond the first two installments of the Mac web series, they aren’t evident on the site. Its archive section is complete only until December 2001, when one article was published. (A piece speculating on why the date of Steve Jobs’ Macworld San Francisco keynote was changed.)
According to the archives, in all of 2001, GraphicPower ran 44 stories. Keynote months (January and July) saw 22 of these, with half on the keynotes themselves. That leaves 22 stories spread out over the remaining 10 months for an average of 2.2 stories per month – about one ever two weeks. February, March and May got no stories at all; November and December got one apiece.
How well, then, did GraphicPower do in its mission to cover the Macintosh graphics industry? We counted a total of seven industry-specific postings in 2001, and three of those were coverage of the Seybold conference. Almost as many articles were on keynote predictions, speculations on upcoming Apple announcements and theories on why predictions didn’t come true. If you add on stories about “reporter’s notebook” pieces about partying at Macworld, and a photo series about expo “booth babes,” GraphicPower’s focus shifts decidedly away from coverage of pre-press and production and towards, well, rumors and speculation.
An editorial on ThinkSecret.com proclaims that “over the past year, Steve Jobs & Co. has been on a private crusade to rid the world of Mac news sites they do not like.” That may very well be. But the fact that GraphicPower was denied credentials does nothing to bolster that argument. Aside from the sophomoric “booth babes” series, there simply isn’t much on GraphicPower for Apple to get worked up about. From everything I’ve read (and I’ve now read pretty much everything the site’s put out in a year and a half), it seems fairly evident that GraphicPower simply did not make the grade as a news organization; that after a couple years of getting by on a really good domain name, someone at IDG (or Apple) asked the tough questions: who the hell are you and what makes you think you deserve a press pass?
So what does Editor-in-Chief Scott McCarty do in response to the charge that GraphicPower is not a legitimate news outlet? Does he redouble his efforts to publish fair and unbiased coverage of Apple and the Macintosh platform? Does he vow to use his investigative powers to seek out truth and illuminate his readers with the light of journalistic integrity?
No, he lashes out in an obscenity-laced tirade (since toned down), vowing not only to never write about Apple again, but never to buy a Macintosh again. He does, however, say that if Apple says it’s sorry, that would “reinstate” his spirit.
In his open letter, McCarty says he “never really intended the site to make money,” and tells Apple (in boldface type, no less) that he will “no longer spend my time and money to promote your products.”
So, McCarty proves Apple’s point by describing GraphicPower, in his own words, as a non-commercial enthusiast site; the kind of site specifically described on IDG’s Macworld Expo site as not qualifying for media credentials.
I’ve got nothing against Scott McCarty. I don’t know him, have never corresponded with him, and I’m not sure I ever read his site until I started doing research for this column. But if McCarty really saw himself as a journalist and not merely the “Mac Web Guy” Apple apparently considers him to be, he’d be out covering the expo without a media pass.
But “a media pass to Macworld Expo is absolutely essential for GraphicPower coverage of the show,” contends McCarty in his letter.
Lots of sites cover the keynote by satellite or webcast. Some of them even prefer it that way. The lack of a press pass would do little more than keep McCarty out of the media rooms, and with the proliferation of web kiosks and AirPort networks scattered throughout the hall, all he’d miss out on is free food. There are a few conferences open only to the press, but the main difference between getting the information there and getting it in the company’s booth is the lack of a cocktail or two.
Rail all you want about Apple’s attempts to squelch information; they’ve done enough bone-headed things in the past to warrant it. Matthew Rothenberg relates some great examples in his eWeek column. I think he even hit the nail on the head as to what GraphicPower’s “de-certification” is all about (although I wish he’d spent more time on it.)
Rothenberg writes that as a member of tech publishing’s “old guard,” he “understands how thoroughly the Web has blurred the line between journalists and enthusiasts.”
And that, I believe, has far more to do with why GraphicPower didn’t get a press pass than some conspiratorial attempt at “blacklisting” sites Apple fears. I believe a lot of it has to do with Apple not wanting to promote the impression that the bulk of its coverage comes from overly ambitious enthusiasts looking to spend their time and money to promote Apple’s products.
I agree with Rothenberg when he says “the ‘rumor and speculation’ yardstick that Apple periodically brandishes is a flawed one indeed, and it clearly has more to do with the Mac maker’s desire to control every aspect of its coverage than it does with sorting the pros from the amateurs.” I just don’t see that GraphicPower has ever done anything to warrant that kind of attention.
That doesn’t mean Apple wouldn’t love to control the information that gets out to the public. Like any corporation, they would. And they’d be thrilled if they could clamp down on rumor sites like ThinkSecret and SpyMac – and plug the leaks that occasionally spring up on larger sites like CNET.
But don’t set Scott McCarty up as the poster child for the battle of the “Evil Corporation vs. the First Ammendment.”
He simply hasn’t earned it.
Photo credit: Shutter-Nub. Used under Creative Commons license.