An Open Letter to the Apple News Community on Steve Jobs’ Health, Professional Boundaries and Not Being Douchebags

Dear Apple-centric media,

It’s time we had a chat. I think you know what this is about.

Writing about rumors concerning Steve Jobs’ health is not only unprofessional, but it is disrespectful.

I get that a lot of people think that Steve Jobs equals Apple. Not only is that incorrect, but it places an unfair burden on Jobs.

I totally understand that living in the public spotlight means that privacy sometimes is difficult to come by. I really do understand that. But there are still lines. While I find it distasteful, I get that the Mac Rumors[1. Update: Mac Rumors moved this story to its Page 2 section since my post first went up.] and Apple Insider teams feels compelled to report that Jobs has been seen at a cancer treatment clinic.

However, linking to stories about how long someone has left to live is a different thing entirely — and is way over the line. Gizmodo, 9 to 5 Mac, Cult of Mac and others all crossed that line today.

(My favorite part is that the original story comes from a tabloid. Way to go, guys.)

Let me share a little bit about my own life.

Almost 18 months ago, our (then) six-month-old son was diagnosed with a life-threatening, super-rare form of brain cancer. He was just a baby, and was given a very dark prognosis. Thankfully, treatment has kept his cancer in check so far, but as with most cancer patients, his battle is far from over. Every day we are thankful he is still with us.

My wife and I keep a blog running for our friends, family and others who have been nothing but supportive of us in our fight for our son’s life. We chose to fight this battle openly, in public.

The Jobs family hasn’t chosen that. No matter how famous, rich, or influential Steve Jobs is, he is still a human being, and has a God-given right to privacy. If I ever found someone talking or writing about my son’s health based on rumors on conjecture, I would punch them in the goddamn face. I have a feeling I’m not alone in that sentiment.

A Brief Interpolation Directed at 9 to 5 Mac

Earlier today, your very own Seth Weintraub linked to both reports described above. Yes, other sites posted it, as I’ve outlined here, but Seth’s post is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

You and your writers (Mark Gurman, especially) are so immature, it is unbelievable. I’ve stopped following them all on Twitter, so I don’t have to keep reading the whining about people not linking back to you, or stealing your stories. If you want to be taken seriously, the first step you should take would be to put a leash on Gurman.

Your issues go past him, however. Your mantra seems to be “Post first.” You’re even prideful you “broke” the Jobs story first. That sort of mentality doesn’t leave room for common sense. I fear that Gurman’s attitude is an indication of how the entire site is run.

When I tried asking you the reasons behind posting the story, I got nothing but mockery back.

(Here’s a screenshot of the entire Twitter conversation.)

You continually post stories that are clearly designed for hits. I know traffic means income, but I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to sell your soul to pay the bills.

Grow up, 9 to 5 Mac. Until then, I’m not visiting, linking to, or even thinking about your site.

Let’s Change the Culture

Macgasm, MacStories and others have committed to not posting stories about Jobs’ health if — and until — Apple makes an official announcement. Even then, writers should treat the news as just that — a news story. There is no room for conjecture or guessing here.

TUAW, Engadget, Daring Fireball and others refrained from linking to today’s reports at all. I say we can learn from their examples.

Instead of trying to beat the other guys to the Publish button, let’s all just take a breath and use some common sense. Life is about more than the latest Apple rumor or product leak out of China. Let’s focus on quality writing, thoughtful insight and reasonable opinions. Our readers deserve those things, and appreciate them.

I firmly believe the antics taken by 9 to 5 Mac and others will only do them disservice in the end. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s practice good writing, firmly edit our posts, use common sense and treat people with respect.

Would that be so hard?