I obviously wanted to be 100% sure about this before I posted a follow up post, but before I go into the details, I’d like you all to know about how we operate over here…
Yes, BGR runs rumors and information that is not always completely confirmed. That is part of the game we are in. What we and other quality sites do is research, confirm, and make our best editorial judgements before running information that is not yet confirmed. Over the past 5 years, I’ve had more exclusives in the mobile field than anyone or any site on the entire planet, and my accuracy rate has been ridiculously high. I’d guess above 95%.
It’s a knack, a gut feeling, a judgment call that you sometimes make when you are sharing valuable information that no one has ever reported on before. There have been countless, and I do mean countless things other fine writers at BGR and I have walked away from entirely. Not ridiculous tips like “the iPhone 7 has been released on Sprint and you can only buy it at Best Buy”, but rather high quality photos, or videos — things very hard to fake. And we walk away.
One recent example in memory actually is the Xbox Kinect. We had that exclusive story sent to us as an anonymous tip a day or two before Engadget published it, revealing it to the world. Someone sent to us a photo of the then unheard of motion-controlled Xbox accessory, and lightly detailed it for us. They worked at an ad agency and were filming this promo piece, so they snapped a quick photo and shot it over to us. We couldn’t independently confirm something so amazingly cool like a brand new way to experience and play video games, so we passed on running the story. Since we were the tipster’s favorite site, he sent it to us first, but still wanting to share the information, he sent it to Engadget who then ran the story. We’re not saying Engadget did a poor job from an editorial viewpoint because they might have confirmed the story with a source at Microsoft, but we specifically couldn’t, so we passed. That is just one example of hundreds on how journalists and reporters make decisions on whether to go with a story or not, and it is always better to be safe than sorry. Our reputation isn’t worth a small or large exclusive. There is no reason to burn our readers for a cheap uptick in traffic for a day or two. It is not how I or we operate, and never will be.
On to the Steve Jobs emails.
Jason Burford, someone who we have never worked with in the past, emailed us and said that he had a pretty interesting email conversation with Steve Jobs and wanted to share it with us, but wanted to be compensated. He sent us the email headers and we had some of our independent tech guys verify the email header information and then inform us whether they were legitimate. Their response was yes, that they were legitimate, and that the entire thread would be extremely hard to fake, if not impossible. After speaking with Jason and getting more background, I decided to run that story. There was an error in my write up where the last line in the article was written to be said by Steve Jobs, when in fact it was Jason who emailed that in reply to Steve Jobs.
The last line was a huge mistake on my part. Jason emailed me probably 8 times over the course of an hour. He then started emailing Michael and Andrew to have them get a hold of me to correct that last quote’s attribution to Steve Jobs when it should have been attributed to Jason. His emails were stuck in Postini, my spam filter, and I didn’t get to see them until Michael and Andrew both forwarded me his emails telling us that last line was incorrect. But that still doesn’t change Apple from telling Fortune and Engadget that this exchange wasn’t with Steve Jobs and was fake, right?
Well, I personally couldn’t give a damn if this email was with Steve Jobs himself or not. What I care about is whether this was with Steve Jobs’ email box, one that is obviously monitored by a bunch of employees at Apple, either in customer service or PR, or both. So, is it possible that Steve Jobs himself did not write those emails to Jason Burford? Without a doubt. Is it possible that these replies were fabricated, and didn’t come from someone at Apple sending emails to Jason Burford from Steve Jobs’ email address email@example.com? No. I believe 100% these emails are real, as I have been given access to Jason’s Google Apps email client and verified those headers to be legitimate, undoctored, and kosher. The replies were all real, the timestamps were all matched up, and the thread was consistent. This was not faked in any way whatsoever. Then there is also the logical part of me that would say, “why?” Why would someone waste so much of their time to have their name involved in something so stupid when they are lying about it? To the extent of having their parent’s company now dragged into this, who both probably had no idea of this email exchange?
Let’s go over it one more time… someone who wanted to remain 100% anonymous and only asked to be paid a nominal fee of a couple hundred dollars lied and completely made up this entire thing? Someone who showed me in his AT&T call records more than two calls from Apple representatives (Texas phone numbers, confirmed to be Apple Customer Relations) on the exact dates he said they called trying to resolve the situation after he had emailed Steve Jobs? Someone who repeatedly emailed me and the BGR staff to correct the last line in my story since it wasn’t accurate? Someone who has now had his name revealed to the public via a tasteless article from AppleInsider, and is now being called by reporters non-stop asking about this article and whether his exchange is true or not? They still wouldn’t admit this was fake? No, you know why? Because it wasn’t fake.
Steve Jobs might not have personally sent those messages, but there isn’t any amount of spin Apple PR honcho Steve Dowling could throw on at this point because those email messages came from Steve Jobs’ email box, and that’s all I or Jason care about.
And for the record, Apple PR has shockingly not responded for comment.
Here are the undoctored email headers if you’re interested. I copied them from Jason’s Gmail myself: