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Steve Jobs questions iPhone cartoonist's account; cartoonist returns the favor

Remember Mark Fiore, the editorial cartoonist whose iPhone app was rejected by Apple for the crime of ridiculing public figures? Steve Jobs apparently does, too... not very fondly.

Last night, during an onstage interview at the Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference, WSJ tech columnist Walt Mossberg asked Jobs about Apple's rejection of Fiore's NewsToons app last year--a decision reversed after Fiore won a Pulitzer Prize and Apple's disapproval began showing up in the headlines.

Jobs's reply, quoted from the WSJ's liveblog:

"We have a rule that says you can't defame people," says Jobs, noting that political cartoonists by virtue of their profession sometimes defame people. The cartoon app was rejected on those grounds, he adds. "Then we changed the rules...and in the meantime, the cartoonist won a Pulitzer....But he never resubmitted his app. And then someone asked him, 'Hey why don't you have an iPhone app?' He says we rejected it, and suddenly, it's a story in the press....Bottom line is, yes, we sometimes make mistakes...but we correct them....We are doing the best we can, changing the rules when it makes sense. What happens sometimes is that some people lie, we find it, and reject it, and they run to the press, and get their 15 minutes of fame and hope it will get us to change our minds. We take it on the chin, and we move on."

Fiore, as you might imagine, does not agree with that retelling of history. For one thing, Apple's habit of making up new App Store rules as it goes along makes it difficult for developers to know if they'll run afoul of them. The Post's Michael Cavna e-mailed Fiore for his reaction and just posted an update on his Comic Riffs blog. A representative bit:

"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 regularly speaks in front of 30-foot screens projecting his image," Fiore tells Comic Riffs.

I separately e-mailed Fiore not long after Cavna did. In his reply, he commented that "I'm happy to weather the gloves-off, confrontational tack Mr. Jobs has chosen if it results in satire and 'ridicule of public figures' being included in one of the more promising new avenues for journalism."

Actually, I'm sure that those forms of expression are now safe--at least if you work for a name-brand publication or can get enough coverage of a satire-enhanced app's rejection. But there seems to be no fix in sight for the weird sense of victimhood on display in Jobs's response last night.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 2, 2010; 3:29 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Mobile , The business we have chosen  
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Comments

Poor Steve Jobs. Why must he be forced to suffer us mortal fools? A ceasless parade of inferior creatures harass and torment the poor, poor fella. Will he never know peace?!

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | June 2, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

a well-balanced version of this imbroglio. shows the slippery slope of censorship. looks like Jobs has ditched his "we hate porn" dodge, as if he is a crusading protector of, er, well, of non-porn-watchers. that argument just confused things and made his valid critics look like perverts. not!
so that stupid meme is put to rest.
love the 15 mins. of fame quote. earning a Pulitzer is a harder achievement than anything a messianic tech control freak does. the cartoonist has to make people laff, and think. that's not easy. and do it week after week, consistently.
so please - no censorship, no shifting standards- and lay off journalism, won't you Control Central, er, Apple?

Posted by: FloridaChick | June 2, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

a well-balanced version of this imbroglio. shows the slippery slope of censorship. looks like Jobs has ditched his "we hate porn" dodge, as if he is a crusading protector of, er, well, of non-porn-watchers. that argument just confused things and made his valid critics look like perverts. not!
so that stupid meme is put to rest.
love the 15 mins. of fame quote. earning a Pulitzer is a harder achievement than anything a messianic tech control freak does. the cartoonist has to make people laff, and think. that's not easy. and do it week after week, consistently.
so please - no censorship, no shifting standards- and lay off journalism, won't you Control Central, er, Apple?

Posted by: FloridaChick | June 2, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Rob, I think this is a misinterpretation of what Jobs was saying. He is admitting that the policy that led to the rejection of the cartoonist's app was a mistake. He does not specifically say Fiore lied, and it makes no sense to interpret his statement that way.

Jobs says "Bottom line is, yes, we sometimes make mistakes…but we correct them." Once the story broke, Apple actually went to Fiore and asked him to resubmit the app.

When he was talking about people lying about why their app was rejected, he is talking about other developers. There have been many cases where somebody gets an app rejected, complains publicly, and gets a flurry of attention.

For example, developers who use private APIs and then whine to the media when their app gets rejected. Unlike a Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist, who gets plenty more than 15 minutes of fame, these developers are the subject of Jobs' ire. He is saying that Apple is taking the high road by not calling them out on their lies.


Posted by: jkh1970 | June 2, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure where you got your copy from. The version I read of this had two paragraphs:
"
...doing the best we can, changing the rules when it makes sense.

What happens sometimes is that some people lie, we find it,... "

This makes for a very different context, in line with jkh1970's interpretation.

Posted by: pbassjbass | June 2, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

@pbassjbass The source Rob is quoting is the clearly detailed in the line immediately before the quote.

Posted by: misere | June 2, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

The big problem here is: If he wanted to refer to 'other developers', he should have said so. By bring up 'people who lie' immediately after talking about specifically rejected apps, Jobs seem to be casting aspersions upon Mark Fiore in particular, and political cartoonists in general.

Further more, Jobs state specifically that "we changed the rules." Really? Did they make a public announcement and notify those whose apps were previously rejected? Did he even notify his own people at Apple? Because a week after Apple finally approved Mr. Fiore's app, they again rejected another app by political cartoonist Daryl Cagle, using the same rule that was apparently waived for Fiore.

That doesn't sound as if the rule had been fixed.

Posted by: Jape77 | June 2, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

No room at Apple for noted political satire, but they found space for this: a virtual (former Communist country) women to "date" site??
barf.

http://www.thefrisky.com/post/246-imaria-an-iphone-app-for-men-who-can-only-deal-with-virtual-women/

Posted by: FloridaChick | June 2, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

SJ wants to be the Great Censor of our time. Who else would have the gumption to tell you what apps you should put in your iApple?

Posted by: docchari | June 3, 2010 1:56 AM | Report abuse

Steve Jobs is an arrogant twit. The fact is their approval process is arbitrary and retroactive sometimes. How can you approve something today then reject it tomorrow saying you changed the rules? How's that fair?

Posted by: tundey | June 3, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I think Steve should worry more about whether an app works or not then what it does. I can't count the number of apps that I have installed that are buggy or don't work at all on my iPad. And, as far as I can tell, there is no way to get a refund.

Posted by: danatay2 | June 7, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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