The curious case of Steve Jobs, the WSJ and no known sources

A growing story over the weekend concerns Apple CEO Steve Jobs, his state of health and whether or not he’s had a liver transplant.

That’s what a report in the Wall Street Journal says.

What I’ve found especially interesting is a post by John Gruber which looks like the epitome of careful and thoughtful research-backed analysis of the available facts (and speculations) that you would expect from top-notch journalists.

In his post, Gruber examines the primary published information claiming Jobs’ had a liver transplant, in the Wall Street Journal report that appeared late on Friday evening – after Apple launched the iPhone 3GS and after the stock markets had closed for the weekend – that cites no sources nor offers any way to corroborate the information the Journal published.

[…] Their story on Jobs’s purported liver transplant offers no sourcing for the reader to judge. It entirely hinges on the (admittedly significant) credibility of The Wall Street Journal itself.

Again, I point all this out not to say that I don’t believe their report. I’m as big a cynic regarding anonymous sourcing as anyone, but I believe that Jobs indeed had a liver transplant in Tennessee simply because The Wall Street Journal has placed its credibility behind the story. There is no hedging or fudging in their report. If it’s not true, it would amount to one of the biggest mistakes in their esteemed history.

But reputable news publications do not ordinarily report utterly unsourced news. (I cannot find another example of the Journal reporting completely unsourced page one news.) So: Why?

He then goes on to dissect the facts as he sees them, concluding with three theories he has to explain what’s going on.

Note that Gruber isn’t a journalist. Yes, he’s an American blogger but primarily he’s a technical writer and technology pundit. Maybe the analytical mind helps.

In any event, his post is a worthy read, one that makes you wonder what’s really going on with Steve Jobs and Apple (and the company’s PR).

John Gruber : Regarding the WSJ’s Report That Steve Jobs Had a Liver Transplant

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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