Steve Jobs's Chatty History with Journalists

The Apple co-founder liked to handle his relationships with the press personally

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For a security-conscious billionaire, Steve Jobs sure was chatty with journalists. Since his passing various journalists who maintained regular correspondences with the former Apple CEO have come out detailing the communication Jobs had with them. When, in May of last year, Gawker technology writer Ryan Tate found himself in a late-night, drink-fueled email fight with Jobs, people were stunned to learn that the head of Apple would bother to answer a complaint about using Bob Dylan in one of their commercials. But one of the things that's emerged in the last day is that it was keeping in character for him to handle his press personally. Here are some of the writers who've described their previously off-the-record conversations with Jobs.

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, who has had a personal technology column in the Journal since 1991, describes his in depth phone conversations with Jobs, who called a lot, often on weekends.

Within days of his return in 1997 he began calling my house, on Sunday nights, for four or five straight weekends. As a veteran reporter, I knew he wanted to flatter me, to get me on the side of a teetering company whose products I had once recommended, but had recently advised readers to avoid. 

But not only did Jobs attempt to butter up the influential gadget reviewer, he developed a real relationship with Mossberg, often having hour and a half conversations that extended to topics far beyond product specs.

Yet there was more to the calls than that. They turned into marathon, 90-minute, wide-ranging, off-the-record discussions that revealed to me the stunning breadth of the man. One minute he'd be talking about sweeping ideas for the digital revolution. The next about why Apple's current products were awful, and how a color, or angle, or curve, or icon was embarrassing. 

Beyond phone chats, Jobs let Mossberg in on new products before launch dates, setting up private revealings. There too he got into long, detailed conversations with Mossberg.

Sometimes, not always, he'd invite me in to see certain big products before he unveiled them to the world. He may have done the same with other journalists. We'd meet in a giant boardroom, with just a few of his aides present, and he'd insist—even in private—on covering the new gadgets with cloths and then uncovering them like the showman he was, a gleam in his eye and passion in his voice. We'd then often sit down for a long, long discussion of the present, the future, and industry gossip.

Jobs kept another big-time tech writer on his speed dial. David Pogue whose technology writing has appeared in The New York Times since 2000 received similar calls from Jobs regarding his columns. Jobs had no boundaries.

And often, I’d hear from Mr. Jobs. He’d call me at home, or when I was out to dinner, or when I was vacationing with my family. And he’d berate me for not seeing his bigger picture. On the other hand, sometimes he’d call to praise me for appreciating what he was going for. A C.E.O. calling a reviewer at home? That’s just not done.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Jobs also kept close correspondence with a less established tech journalist: former Gizmodo editor in chief Brian Lam. Even before Gizmodo got its hands on a prototype iPhone 4, Lam maintained an e-mail correspondence with Jobs. The Apple CEO gave Lam his two-cents on a Gizmodo redesign, Lam writes on his site The Wirecutter.

Date: March 31, 2010 6:00:56 PM PDT

To: brian lam <>


Parts of it I like, and other parts I don't understand.  I'm not sure the "information density" is high enough for you and your brand.  Seems a bit too tame to me. I'll look for it this weekend and be able to give you some more useful feedback after that.

I like what you guys do most of the time, and am a daily reader.


Sent from my iPad

And even when Jobs was dealing with less high-profile journalists, he couldn't help his chatty self. After inviting jobs to an event, Studio360 host Kurt Andersen received a personal response.

In late 2000, I had co-founded a web-based publication covering entertainment and the media, and was trying to put together a conference of muckety-mucks in the field. I emailed an invitation to Steve Jobs, and he emailed back immediately to decline, very nicely — he was too busy. So he was: the next year iTunes and the first Apple store appeared.

Usually those types of things are left to assistants, no?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.