Even though I should be finishing the latest animation right now, I just wanted to give you an update about the latest Jobs/Apple/app dustup. I'm still trying to make sense of what Steve Jobs actually said, but here's an excerpt from his appearance last night at the WSJ's D8 conference:
7:18PM Walt: So what happened with this candidate?
Steve: We had a rule that said you can't defame other people.
Kara: Determined by your app people.
Steve: Yes... and political cartoons got caught in that. We didn't think of that. So this guy submits his app and he gets rejected. We didn't see that coming. So we changed the rule, but this guy never resubmitted... then he wins a Pulitzer Prize, and he says we rejected him. So, we are guilty of making mistakes. We're doing the best we can, we're learning as fast as we can -- but we thought this rule made sense.
Right after that, Jobs apparently said this:
7:19PM Steve: We're doing the best we can, we're fixing mistakes. But what happens is -- people lie. And then they run to the press and tell people about this oppression, and they get their 15 minutes of fame. We don't run to the press and say "this guy is a son of a bitch liar!" -- we don't do that.
Now, before you freak out and lose sleep like I did, this was taken from a live blog, and other live blogs from the same event are a little mellower. I'm trying to track down the full transcript or video (the event was filmed, but they're only releasing excerpts) and will update when I've found it.
If I'm hearing Steve Jobs correctly, he's essentially calling me a liar who is just seeking 15 minutes of fame (which, as a cartoonist, is a very funny thing to hear from someone who speaks in front of 30-foot screens projecting his image).
What I am seeking is a clarification from Apple on their policy regarding satire and "ridiculing public figures," and a response to the
I know I promised to go into more detail about my recent Pulitzer win (still amazed and floating on air), but it seems that story has been eclipsed by interest in the fact that Steve Jobs and Apple reject apps that “ridicule public figures.” For more back-story, you can look here, here and here.
While I’ve been a fan of Apple and use their gadgets and gizmos to help create my cartoons, it’s good to see Apple’s anti-satire bent is getting some attention. I’m still amazed a company that created this ad is now so hostile to political content:
Satire and “ridiculing public figures” are not only good for our Democracy, they can be good for business—for Apple and for independent creators. (Once Apple accepted my previously-rejected app, NewsToons, it shot to the top spot for paid news apps, beating out CNN and the Drudge Report.) While the iPhone and iPad won’t solve all of the problems facing cartoon journalism today, they do represent a life preserver in a sea of closing newspapers and hugely profitable websites that refuse to pay creators.
In short, satire and ridicule good, Apple policy of rejecting political content, bad.
While mine is not the first political satire app to be rejected by Apple, it seems to have received the most attention thanks to the recent Pulitzer win. (And thanks to Laura McGann’s Columbo-like questioning that broke the story. “Just one last question . . .”)
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (where I am a board member) has called on Steve Jobs to see the light and do what’s right for journalism and free speech in the good ol’ US of A.
“While the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists realizes that Apple is a private sector company, Apple is also becoming one of the primary ways people publish news and information. With that innovation comes new responsibility.
A vigorous public discourse, opinion, satire and, yes, ridiculing public figures, are essential to journalism and our Democracy. Our nation would be a very different place if early technological innovators like Benjamin Franklin and those who followed him, forbade their presses from being used to ridicule public figures.”
Now, to answer a couple of questions people have been asking.
1.) Did you change the app’s content in any way before resubmitting it to Apple, in order to get approved?
No, I definitely did not. When you ask a political cartoonist to change something about the political content of their work, their usual impulse is to do the exact opposite. For example, back when I worked for a newspaper I was told by the new publisher to go easier on George W. Bush, which promptly caused me to go harder on Bush.
Which, um, led me out the door where I happily returned to working for myself.
2.) Why didn’t you tell Apple to go to hell and instead create an app with one of their competitors?
The reason I decided to continue working with Apple is that I want to see them put satire and independent political voices into their mix of apps. My NewsToons app is now one of those voices, and by the way, is still in violation of their Ye Shall Have No Ridicule policy.
Had I walked away in protest, there would still be no political animation in Apple’s app store. My goal is to show the inconsistency and subjectivity of their approval process. You shouldn’t have to win a Pulitzer or get on teevee just to get your political app approved. With the help of others, I’ll continue to push for Apple to open their doors to a wide range of satire, news and politics. If you have had an app rejected because it ridicules public figures, email me. (And, yes, I may create an app with one of their competitors.)
3.) Will you continue to update your app and add improvements? (Also sometimes phrased as, “Why does your sucky app take so long to load?”)
Yes, I will continue to add improvements to the app and it’s functionality. The first version is very simple and had a tiny development budget. (Unfortunately, I’m too dumb when it comes to programming to do these things myself.) The massive response to this app has made loading take longer than it should, but we’ll change that soon. I’m also really looking forward to making new apps that are more game-like.
Long story short, I’m really hoping this is just temporary confusion at Apple HQ as they change from a fortress-like computer company to more of a media company.
The Fourth Estate is becoming Estate 4.0.
Just a quick post before I get into more detail. It looks like the AAEC (of which I am a member) is calling for Apple to support free speech. You know, so you can get your satire-filled app approved BEFORE winning the Pulitzer and having Steve Jobs say Apple made a mistake. More detail soon, but in the meantime, there's this:
A Call to Apple to Support Free Speech, from the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists
3899 North Front Street
Harrisburg, PA 17110
April 22, 2010
Mr. Steve Jobs