Steve Jobs and business journalism

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With the Wednesday death of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs, let’s look back at his influence and impact on business journalism as he often tussled with members of the profession.

Jon Friedman, the media columnist for Marketwatch.com, writes Wednesday evening that “One of Jobs’s greatest accomplishments was his mastery with the media, which in turn produced all kinds of good will with consumers, Wall Street and the pundits who shape public opinion.”

His influence on business journalism was widespread. Consider:

1. When The Wall Street Journal advertised internally for a new Apple beat reporter in July, it noted that the job was one of the “most important, and toughest, beats” at the paper. It also stated that, “The reporter must address a possible leadership transition with sensitivity and care.”

2. Reuters job posting for an Apple beat reporter in March stated, “Our readers need to know everything about the company’s plans, from CEO Steve Jobs’ future to how Apple can top the iPad — and they need to know before everyone else does.”

3. Daniel Lyons, the technology editor at Newsweek who had written a fake Steve Jobs blog for years, stopped the blog in January after the Apple CEO took another medical leave of absence. Lyons felt it unseemly to make fun of someone who was seriously ill.

4. In July 2008, Joe Nocera, a business columnist for the New York Times, wrote about Jobs and the recurring questions about his health and why the company should disclose more detail about it. Nocera also reported that Jobs himself called during the course of his reporting, but would only talk off the record. It’s an agreement that Nocera upheld — and was later criticized for doing.

5. Tonight, as tech reporters scramble to cover the news, the entire Wired homepage is in black. It’s a fitting tribute.

Covering Apple and Steve Jobs was one of the toughest gigs in business journalism. And it was probably the most rewarding. Jobs rarely exposed himself to business journalists, but he also was one of the greatest stories in business and economics news in the past 15 years.