After telling CNBC viewers for weeks that Steve Jobs is "fine," the network's Silicon Valley bureau chief Jim Goldman tried a novel experiment in journalism: Talking to a source who wasn't an Apple flack.
His source: A tech CEO with "no axe to grind" who is "in Jobs's inner circle" and worries that Jobs is in a "state of denial" about his declining health. Anyone familiar with Jobs knows that sure sounds like Oracle CEO Larry Ellison; Jobs is not close to many of his peers in the industry. Bill Campbell, the former CEO of Intuit, is the other likely candidate.
If he indeed spoke to the likes of Ellison or Campbell, Goldman learned what Valleywag readers knew a month ago: That a close friend, Ellison, is distraught over Jobs's health and believes that he is dying. (And, as Silicon Alley Insider's Nicholas Carlson points out, if Goldman really knew this a week ago, why didn't he report it then?)
Instead of doing that reporting when he should have — last month — Goldman was content to recite Apple's press statements on air and reassure viewers that Jobs was healthy. (Cozily, Apple's top corporate flack, Steve Dowling, was previously CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau chief.)
Goldman is merely the worst of the mainstream pack of reporters who have chased their tails on the story of Jobs's secretly declining health, as blogs like Valleywag and Gizmodo have pushed the questions they are too polite (or lazy) to ask. Aside from some keen reporting by New York Times writers John Markoff and Joe Nocera last year, no one has gotten close to the truth: Jobs's gaunt appearance at an event last summer was merely the most obvious marker of the deeper health problems Apple CEO has suffered from since he was treated for pancreatic cancer in 2004.
Jobs has now, in a belatedly noble move, stepped down from his job, having accepted that he can no longer do it. Some reporters might consider copying him.