Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

The New York Times gets its Pulitzer for picking on Apple

April 16, 2013: 6:33 AM ET

The paper wins journalism's top prize for zeroing in on high tech's fattest target.

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 6.25.24 AMFORTUNE -- I hate to say I told you so, but I predicted back in January 2012 when the New York Times followed since disgraced monologist Mike Daisey's lead and sent a team of reporters to write about the working conditions in Chinese iPad factories, that the paper was going for a Pulitzer.

It didn't matter that every major U.S. electronics company assembles its products under the same working conditions -- or worse. Or that Apple (AAPL) was actually doing something about them. (Tim Cook called the Times' implication that Apple didn't care what happened to its subcontractors' workers "patently false and offensive.")

The fact is, the New York Times knows  how to win Pulitzers -- better than any other journalistic operation. It has now won a record 112. It employs editors who specialize in identifying Pulitzer-winning topics and assigning reporters who will bring them home.

And that's what it set out to do -- with Apple as its conspicuous subject -- in seven major stories capped with a self-serving kicker that suggested that it was Times' reporting that led to substantive changes in the working conditions in China's electronics factories:

Part 1: How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work
Part 2: In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad
Part 3: How Apple Sidesteps Billions in Global Taxes
Part 4: Apple's Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay
Part 7: The Patent, Mighty as a Sword
Part 8: As Boom Lures App Creators, Tough Part Is Making a Living
Part 9: Signs of Changes Taking Hold in Electronics Factories in China

As I wrote  after that last story, published just under the wire for the Pulitzer committee's Dec. 25, 2012, deadline:

"Never mind that Apple's competitors all outsource work, sidestep taxes, use patents as weapons and turn an even blinder eye to labor abuses in the Asian supply chain. The fact is, Apple -- always a draw for readers -- made a big, fat, easy target."

And on Monday the New York Times' got its reward: A 2013 Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting for "its penetrating look into business practices by Apple and other technology companies that illustrates the darker side of a changing global economy for workers and consumers."

Link: The Pulitzer Prize Board 2012-2013. The jury for this award:

Louise Kiernan*, associate professor, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University (Chair)
Kathleen L. Best, managing editor, content creation, The Seattle Times
Ziva Branstetter, enterprise editor, Tulsa World
Sheila Coronel, director, Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, Columbia University
Paul D'Ambrosio, director, news and investigation, Asbury Park Press, Neptune, NJ
Charles Ornstein, senior reporter, ProPublica, New York City
Walter Robinson, distinguished professor of journalism, Northeastern University, Boston, MA

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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