By now, you probably have heard and read about the controversy that surrounds Apple CEO Steve Jobs and the email exchange he recently had with a New York college student. To summarize: journalism student Chelsea Kate Issacs originally called Apple’s media relations department to ask about iPads being used in an academic setting. She didn’t get a response, so she wrote Jobs. His first reply?
“Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry.”
After another exchange between Issacs and Jobs, the Apple CEO finally said this to her:
“Please leave us alone.”
At first glance, this is a PR problem for Jobs and Apple. You have the CEO telling a young college student to basically buzz off. Then, you have Apple’s media relations office ignoring her as well. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a business of five people, not answering an inquiry is flat out wrong.
However, I take issue with the student as well. I don’t have a problem with her inquiring for a comment. I may seem nitpicky here, but my issue is with Ms. Issacs saying, “The completion of this article is crucial to my grade in the class, and it may potentially get published in our university’s newspaper…”
Why mention the grade part? Jobs is right. It’s not Apple’s responsibility to help her get an “A.” And it “may potentially” get published? If you are a journalism student, never say potentially. For example, say “I’m working on a story on (insert subject) for this week’s edition of the (newspaper name).”
I’ll let you read the actual emails over at Gawker.
Ms. Issacs was annoyed at the fact that Jobs was rude in his replies. She’s right. He acted like a world class jerk. And Apple’s media relations should have had a statement at the ready for inquiries like this. But, let’s be honest. We’ve all heard that Jobs isn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy type. That’s not an excuse, though.
When I read the mails from Ms. Issacs, I detected some snark and, honestly, desperation. This is a great lesson for any young journalism student. Don’t make it seem like you are begging and never get testy with a potential interviewee. The chances of getting the response you want will drop.
Of course, the media is giving Jobs the business. As a PR person, it annoys me that he wouldn’t have the sense to, at least, call his own media relations department and ask them for a short response. And who’s running Apple’s media relations?
But, Ms. Issacs should also have some criticism. Steve Jobs was rude to you. It stinks and isn’t acceptable. But going email-to-email with him solves nothing. A journalist should never make themselves the story.
What are your thoughts on Jobs’ responses? And is the student in the wrong as well? Leave your comments below.