Steve Jobs, Chelsea Kate Isaacs, Journalism and "Entitlement"

Sometimes I think "entitled" is the new "uppity." It's the new all-purpose put down for anyone who seems too aware of their own power.


By way of backstory, college journalism student Chelsea Kate Isaacs wrote an impassioned email to Apple CEO Steve Jobs after the Apple PR department blew off her six voicemail messages requesting a quote for an assignment:

Mr. Jobs, I humbly ask why Apple is so wonderfully attentive to the needs of students, whether it be with the latest, greatest invention or the company's helpful customer service line, and yet, ironically, the Media Relations Department fails to answer any of my questions which are, as I have repeatedly told them, essential to my academic performance."

She makes a good point. Apple bends over backwards to market itself to college students. As any flack will tell you, PR is the art of burnishing the reputation of a company by cultivating relationships. I'd probably put it more crassly, but that's the official line. That's basically what Steve Jobs would say he pays Apple Media Relations to do.

If your company cares about cultivating relationships with students, it's shortsighted to blow off the student press. Isaacs is a journalist in training, a college student, and an Apple customer. She's exactly the kind of person that Apple Media Relations should pay attention to--maybe not after the first message, but they really ought to make time after the fifth or sixth call. If Media Relations won't do its job, Isaacs has every right to complain to the big boss, Steve Jobs. He should care.

Steve Jobs is known for occasionally dashing off replies to messages addressed to sjobs@apple.com. Evidently he was in a snarky mood that day:

Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry

You can read the whole exchange here, but it culminated in Jobs writing:

Please leave us alone.

According to Adrian Chen of Gawker, Isaacs has received several job offers since the exchange became public. Several of Gawker's star commenters could not shut up about what an "entitled" little brat Isaacs is. Of course, since she's an attractive 22-year-old who doesn't know her place, another commenter felt compelled to put her in her place with slut-shaming rhetoric: "sending requestInvite a friend to commentWhat kind of job offers? The kind that involve getting pounded by 10 inches of hard cock?") Nice.

Some of the angriest pseudonymous commenters let on that they were journalists. They were really pissed off that Isaacs hadn't learned the importance of cultivating relationships, as a matter of professionalism. In their eyes, being a professional journalist means making nice with everyone in a position of authority. 

Isaac's approach wasn't smooth or polished, but I hope she gets some job offers out of this. Journalists need to cultivate more of a sense of entitlement.

Good PR people use social norms to keep journalists in line. My first boss gave me some great advice about talking to spokespeople: "It's their job to make you feel uncomfortable." It's true. The best PR people subtly exploit social norms to make reporters feel like they're being pushy or inappropriate for asking basic questions.

After years of codependent relationships with spokespersons, some reporters internalize those values. In their eyes, not taking what PR gives you and liking it makes you an entitled brat.

When institutions aren't responsive, even in the minimal ways they promise to be, journalists should push back harder. Isaac could teach the profession a thing or two.

[Photo credit: leoncillio sabino, Creative Commons.]

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