In theory, pro journalists can climb to the top of their fields without sacrificing their built-in urge to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In practice, even the loosest cannons find themselves battened to the hatch, or whatever the right sailing metaphor is. One of my role models, former Fake Steve Jobs blogger Dan Lyons, seems to have been forced by his new employer to undo his own writing. Here's what happened.Dan Lyons is a cruelly funny man. He's been a journalist and fiction writer for decades, but Lyons is best known for the anonymous Fake Steve Jobs blog he launched in 2006. Writing from home at night, Dan vented his frustrations as a Forbes writer by inventing a fictional Steve Jobs character. Fake Steve said everything about the tech industry's titans that Dan wasn't allowed to print in Forbes. (Check out "I love to fuck with car salesmen" and "Eric Schmidt's Serenity Prayer.") Today, it seems Dan has taken down a post, for the first time any of us can remember. From most reporters, I'd consider this typical pointy-haired management, what can ya do, etc. But seeing Dan Lyons self-censor his own honest work makes me wonder if I'll be able to stay true to my own after I leave Valleywag's free-fire zone next month. What's changed for Lyons? Simple: This past summer, Newsweek hired him away from Forbes. After a long series of talks with both old and new editors, Lyons shut down Fake Steve Jobs and started a new blog, Real Dan Lyons. Yesterday he blogged a potty-mouthed, Fake-Steve-style rant about Yahoo's PR people yanking his chain in his official Newsweek reporter role. Today that post is gone. Dan's not answering his cellphone or email today, so I have to presume it was his Newsweek editor who made him take it down. Certainly, I've never seen Lyons wake up in the morning and rush to undo his previous night's typing. Here's the timeline:
- A month ago, Yahoo's PR reps put Dan on the phone, as a Newsweek reporter, with Roy Bostock, Yahoo's chairman.
- Bostock swore up and down, over and over again, that Jerry Yang was not being challenged as CEO of the flailing, sprawling company he co-founded more than ten years ago. A side note: A lawyer Yahoo PR put in touch with Lyons also swore that a lucrative deal to have Google sell ads for Yahoo was going to make it past antitrust regulators, no problem.
- Yesterday: Whoops. The Google deal never happened, and Yang has been forced out of the CEO seat.
- On Monday, Lyons posted to his own blog, blasting Yahoo's PR people as "lying sacks of shit."
- Today, that post is replaced with a 404 error. I dialed Dan's cellphone and got a robotic message saying this customer is not accepting calls.
- We can't think of a single Fake Steve Jobs post that Dan redacted while at Forbes. Can you?