My worst fears for a favorite writer have been confirmed: Dan Lyons told Valleywag alumnus Jordan Golson via phone that (A) Newsweek, his new employer, ordered Lyons to remove a blog post calling Yahoo publicists "lying sacks of shit," and (B) rather than continue to blog under the boss's watchful eye, Lyons — once Internet-famous as the Fake Steve Jobs — has stopped blogging altogether. The man has two kids and Newsweek pays real money, so I'm not going to toss rocks. Except at Newsweek, which hired Lyons because of Fake Steve Jobs, his hilarious fake-Apple-CEO persona; urged him to blog outside the magazine; then freaked out when Lyons continued to write honestly in his spare time. You maniacs! You blew it up!
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:
Dan Lyons is shocked, shocked that Yahoo's PR team lied to him about how long CEO Jerry Yang would stay in the job. PR people routinely lie; it's part of the job description. But the good ones don't get caught. Lyons, Newsweek's tech columnist, interviewed Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock less than a month before Monday's announcement that Yang would step down, and Bostock loudly declared Yang was here to stay. One would think no one would be more cynical about the world of tech PR than the man who savaged Apple's spinmeister when he impersonated CEO Steve Jobs in a satirical blog. Lyons is no longer writing as Fake Steve Jobs, but as the real Dan Lyons, he occasionally summons up the old savagery. Here's what he says about the flacks who deceived him about Yang's employment status, as well as a now-scotched advertising deal with Google:
There's a "Steven P Jobs" on Facebook. But it's not Apple's CEO. How can I tell? The biographical details, which anyone can get from Wikipedia, are all correct. But the "About Me" section is a dead giveaway.It reads, "Have a passion for really great products!" The exclamation point kills it for me. Add to that: He's not even in Facebook's Apple network. His wife, Laurene Powell-Jobs, and his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs both have Facebook profiles, and they aren't on his friends list. Sadly, 75 Apple employees, drawn to any electronic hint of their cult leader, are. I'm left wishing Dan Lyons had been the one to pull this stunt. The original Fake Steve Jobs would have made this Facebook page so convincing I would have believed it. And gladly.
Yesterday, as Web 2.0's bubble burst in slow motion at 30,000 feet over downtown San Francisco, I received a preview copy of Reality Check, by Guy Kawasaki. Someone had stuck a Post-it on the cover: "See inside for foreword by The Fake Steve Jobs!" Awesome. I'm never going to read Kawasaki's book, even though he's way more successful than I'll ever be. I skipped to Dan Lyons's foreword, written in his Fake Steve persona. Here's the best parts:
David Churbuck, the founder of Forbes.com (and sweaty prep-school wrestling partner of Fake Steve Jobs blogger turned boring Newsweek columnist Dan Lyons), has weighed in on the chaos enveloping his former employer, the investor-friendly, snarkier-than-thou business magazine. Churbuck, like many Forbes alumni, seems to know more of what's going on than its current employees. The publication, now backed by Silicon Valley investment house Elevation Partners, is colliding together its Web and print editorial teams, and the result could be nuclear, as editors and writers scramble for position in the new order. Churbuck observes that the split between print and online had its roots in a plan to spin off Forbes.com in an IPO during the go-go late '90s; even after plans for an IPO were scrapped, the division persisted. Now, Elevation is pushing to consolidate the staffs, Churbuck says. Separately, a tipster reports several personnel moves happening at Forbes. Are they coincidence, or a sign of people positioning their own careers for the coming upheaval? Hard to say.
I'm glad Dan Lyons has landed a high-profile gig at Newsweek. But the newsweekly format crushes everything I love about Dan's writing. Look at his latest: He starts with a provocative question — why is Jerry Yang still in charge? — but doesn't answer it in the cutting manner we've come to expect. "Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently made an off-the-cuff, public comment that seemed to indicate to some he might still be interested in Yahoo." Dan, this is the kind of writing Fake Steve used to shred with his bare hands. Namaste, but please forward us some of those canned layoff leaks companies send you now that you're a checkout-stand hero.(Disclosure: Sigh. I write for Slate, which is owned by the Washington Post Company, which owns Newsweek, which sometimes runs Slate articles, but never any of mine that I know about. Happy now? I wish Murdoch would hurry up and buy us all.)
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — As Fake Steve Jobs, Dan Lyons obsessed over Fast Company videoblogger Robert Scoble. Who is he? Where did he come from? Why won't he shut up? Why won't people in Silicon Valley shut up about him? All those questions melted away when Scoble and Lyons pressed the flesh at MIT's EmTech conference.
In Dan Lyons's Fake Steve Jobs blog, he played the Apple CEO as a cynic who borrowed the cult-creation techniques of old-world and new-age mystics in order to more efficiently exploit a workforce and market products. But the actual Dan Lyons, now a bloggin' Newsweek reporter, has a heart. Speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo, Lyons apologized for not being as funny as his avatar Fake Steve Jobs since leaving Forbes and starting his new blog, Real Dan Lyons. So why did Lyons give up the ghost of Fake Steve? He confirmed for the crowd what Valleywag had reported:Lyons couldn't bring himself to mock a cancer sufferer who's wasting away.
Click to viewDespite the fact that Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced no new products at the company's glorified press conference yesterday, the crowd's cheers were as blustery as they ever are at Apple events. But Newsweek's Dan Lyons, who must have bored enough by what was being said on stage to be paying so much more attention to the darkened audience, says he knows the reason why: Much of the crowd was clapping so loud because they were paid to.
"I’m starting at Newsweek tomorrow and Fake Steve was supposed to be part of my job. So we’re going to discuss whether to revive the blog." — Excerpt from an email message from semi-retired Fake Steve Jobs blogger Dan Lyons to Mac Soda blogger mykbibby. Contrary to speculation by certain people we could name but won't, Lyons didn't kill the blog to curry favor with Apple for Newsweek. It was more personal.Dan saw His Steveness in person at Apple's developer conference in June and had a sincere personal crisis over Jobs's obvious illness. He felt wrong mocking a guy who might not be alive the next morning. Because in case you can't tell, Dan Lyons is one of Jobs's biggest fanboys. Huge. (In photo: Dan getting his own fanboy love at Macworld Expo 2008 from stock analyst Charlie Wolf.)
Is Dan Lyons working open mic nights at comedy clubs in San Francisco? If true, it adds a whole new layer to the conspiracy theories about his new job at Newsweek cutting into his blogging habit. I can hear the editor now: "Son, this is Newsweek. If you want to be funny, go tell jokes at a nightclub." We're skeptical of the rumor, though, because Dan usually calls us before he comes to town to set up time to drink. Dan, you sneaking around on us? That aside, I'd pay to see Fake Steve Live at least once. (Photo by Mark Coggins)
To be honest, I didn't think Fake Steve Jobs author Dan Lyons would be able to keep it coming under his own name. (And also to be honest, I looked into getting his old job at Forbes.) Anyway, now that Dan is up and running at realdanlyons.com, he's got me laughing orange soda out my nose. Right onto my brand new iMac keyboard, Dan. That superflat one Steve worked so hard on. Dan's secret? He really does talk like this. All the time. Drives waitresses crazy. Three must-read, will-cringe excerpts from his recent posts: