Joe Nocera steers close to the edge of propriety while discussing Steve Jobs health, ostensibly wrapping his tattle tale with discussion of Apple’s keen interest in secrecy.
Under its chief executive and founder Steven P. Jobs, Apple has created a culture of secrecy that has served it well in many ways — from new products to the health of Mr. Jobs.
…Mr. Jobs first discovered he had an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor — which is both rarer and less deadly than other forms of pancreatic cancer — in October 2003. This was a full nine months before he had the surgery to remove it. Why did he wait so long? Because, according to a Fortune magazine article published in May, Mr. Jobs was hoping to beat the cancer with a special diet.
The Apple directors who knew the gravity of the situation urged him to undergo surgery, according to the Fortune article. But it was only when Mr. Jobs realized that the tumor was growing that he finally agreed. And only after the surgery was successful did he inform employees that he had been sick, in an e-mail message in which he declared himself “cured.” That’s how Apple’s shareholders found out, too. The company has never spoken about his illness, citing his “privacy” concerns.
I bring this up because of what transpired on Monday afternoon, during Apple’s third-quarter conference call. In June, rumors began swirling that Steve Jobs was sick again. They had started during the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, where Mr. Jobs looked unusually thin and haggard.
And nothing you ever say to anyone is ever really “off the record”, even if you are Steve Jobs
On Thursday afternoon, several hours after I’d gotten my final “Steve’s health is a private matter” — and much to my amazement — Mr. Jobs called me. “This is Steve Jobs,” he began. “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive1 ] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.” After that rather arresting opening, he went on to say that he would give me some details about his recent health problems, but only if I would agree to keep them off the record. I tried to argue him out of it, but he said he wouldn’t talk if I insisted on an on-the-record conversation. So I agreed.
Because the conversation was off the record, I cannot disclose what Mr. Jobs told me. Suffice it to say that I didn’t hear anything that contradicted the reporting that John Markoff and I did this week. While his health problems amounted to a good deal more than “a common bug,” they weren’t life-threatening and he doesn’t have a recurrence of cancer. After he hung up the phone, it occurred to me that I had just been handed, by Mr. Jobs himself, the very information he was refusing to share with the shareholders who have entrusted him with their money.
You would think he’d want them to know before me. But apparently not.
- asshole, probably, or motherfucker, possibly [↩]