Mac Musings

The Blacklist Brouhaha

Daniel Knight - 2002.07.10 -

I was going to let it rest, but some recent email from Scott McCarty (publisher of the famously blacklisted GraphicPower site), an article on RandomMaccess, and an editorial on ZDNet pulled me back into the blacklist brouhaha.

The one that really put me over the top was GraphicPower "Blacklisting" Looks More Like Apathy than Conspiracy by Chuck La Tournous on RandomMaccess. La Tournous claims to boil things down to the barest facts, claiming that only GraphicPower was banned, that GraphicPower shouldn't have qualified in the first place, and that nobody really needs a media pass to cover Macworld Expo.

Right and Wrong

In reverse order, he's right, he may be right, and he's wrong.

Anyone with $15 can visit the Expo. Anyone can visit the Apple booth, and those without press passes may be more welcome there. However, the press pass includes two more perks: attendance at the keynote and access to the Internet connection in the press room. You can cover the show without them, but you can't cover it well if you have to miss the keynote. And that AirPort network in the press room is a real blessing.

GraphicPower isn't much of a news site. As is true of a lot of Mac-related sites, it's very much a personal project. McCarty publishes some excellent content, but he doesn't publish regularly. Like many Mac online publishers, he runs his website on the side, not as a full-time business.

No Pass For You

However, the first email he received stated, "This is because the guidelines to receive a badge stipulate that outlets featuring coverage on rumors and speculation are not eligible for a media pass." And like many of the banned sites, GraphicPower is not a rumor site.

But where La Tournous is most definitely wrong is in

Banned Sites

  • Applelust
  • GraphicPower
  • MacFixIt
  • think AAPL

...and at least 3 more.

calling GraphicPower the only problem. Dean Browell of Applelust had his press pass rescinded, as reported in Wired. MacFixIt, an institution on the Mac Web, was banned from the press., a Mac gaming site, has been banned. George M. Gunderson of think AAPL also reports having press privileges pulled. And I know of three other Mac sites on the blacklist, although these sites don't want to go public at this point.

As I write this, I have no idea whether I'll be granted a press pass. I've signed up for one under Cobweb Publishing, the business I created to publish Low End Mac and my other sites. We don't publish rumors, although we do speculate on future products and parody rumor sites.

Low End Mac doesn't publish rumors or link to them. We do have both a paid subscriber base and advertising support, and we publish original news content at least once per week. By IDG's definition, we should be considered a commercial news site.

Who Is Behind It?

Was an official Apple blacklist provided to IDG to keep "the rabble" out of the press room and out of the keynote? We may never know, but we do know that the original reason given - publishing rumors and speculation - doesn't apply to most of the sites which have had press passes revoked.

No only that, but David Coursey of ZDNet sees the great irony:

"Of course, if sites that publish Apple rumors aren't eligible to attend Macworld, why does Apple want me there so badly? (And, believe me, they do.) ZDNet and CNET (our corporate parent) certainly publish a fair number of rumors ourselves."

There are a lot of possible reasons for restricting press access - the crowded condition of the press room should be near the top of the list. Limiting press passes for online media to sites with weekly updates makes sense. Drawing the line at news sites doesn't, because a lot of Mac-related websites don't normally publish original news except during the Macworld Expo. And then they have some great news coverage.

Regardless, once a site has been approved for a press pass, it should only be revoked under the most extreme circumstances. And that's not what happened.

Instead, IDG chose a slow week with very little Mac news to do something that ticked off a good number of Mac fans - not a smart move at all.

My suggestion for the future: Offer a different kind of media pass for the Mac Web, one that provides access to the show and keynote, but maybe not to the press room. This would show Apple's and IDG's support for the independent Mac press, something the actions of the last week have undermined.

If they'd done something like that for this year's Expo, the whole brouhaha could have been avoided.