I owe John Markoff an apology

Recently I wrote about how the scoop about Steve’s surgery had leaked out in the Times under the byline of John Markoff (my original post is here) and I suggested that Apple PR had arranged for the info to leak to Markoff because he’s one of the few journos they consider friendly to Apple. I also wrote that “there’s a reason this story leaked out in the Times and under Markoff’s byline, and it isn’t because he’s such a dogged, hard-nosed investigative reporter who’s breaking down doors to get at the truth. Ahem.”

Turns out, in fact, that Markoff worked his ass off to get that scoop. The guy has been covering the Valley longer than almost anyone else in the business, and he’s deeply sourced and highly trusted, having earned a reputation for being a straight-shooter with extremely high standards of integrity and honesty. A source close to Markoff with intimate knowledge of the situation (no, not Markoff himself) called me yesterday to non-comment on the matter and to express personal outrage at what Times reporters perceived as an insult. My anonymous source insists that Apple did not just hand that scoop to the Times on a platter, and that Markoff was working his sources like mad trying to find out what was wrong with Dear Leader, and that this is how he got the info about Steve having surgery earlier this year. The source concedes that it’s impossible to tell whether Apple PR was acting behind the scenes to push out that leaked information through middle-men. Nevertheless, the fact is that Markoff (and his colleagues) were working their asses off to get the information, and Timespeople resented being portrayed as lazy hacks who sit around waiting for companies to feed them information and who serve as court stenographers for Valley companies — when in fact they are dogged journalists in passionate pursuit of the truth.

I’ve met John Markoff, and I have the highest respect for him. I regret making this mistake.

33 Responses to “I owe John Markoff an apology”

  1. Tom

    If you watch the movie Freedom Downtime, you’ll see John likes to be a bit sensationalist.

  2. collablab

    Interesting that as Fake Steve you could have totally gotten away with something like that. Assuming a false persona has great advantages. Remind me to try it some time.

    -Frank Abagnale Jr

  3. pferree

    collablab, this one’s a joke too. He’s getting away with it as RDL. Notice the same format as all the other non-comments.

    He’s a sneaky one, that RDL.

  4. Another Tom

    Another blogger I used to read would have handled this a different way, more like: “Okay, so Markoff managed to make a few phone calls before being fed the story. Fuck ‘im anyway.” That blogger was a lot more fun to read.

  5. Dionysius the Bold

    Ming the Merciless had nothing on our humble scribe, RDL. The pen might or might not be mightier than the sword, but Dan’s keyboard is certainly sharper than any blade I’ve ever seen. Keep up the good work, RDL, and leave no ego undeflated.

  6. exasperated

    Not to play excessive fanboy or anything, and let it be put on the record that I feel that you have said many insightful things, but lately all this smack on the steve/reporter is getting dull and overplayed. You made your point and now your jokes are a bit old. If you really need to fill a blog quota to keep traffic up, talk about your pets or a nosebleed or your kids or your grandparents or even make up a story that your great great Aunt Delores might have told you–but please let this die for now–you have exhausted my patience on anything remotely like the subject at hand.


  7. MyDogBen

    Okay. You made an error. You handled it with grace. We can still be friends.

  8. SamG


    The Apple PR, the Journos who are just trying to bring some bread home to their hungry (and potentially obese) children, the buzz, the Valley, the BS… is an excellent read. But, on the second day it tastes like a turkey sandwich left outside, in the open, to “ripe.”

    The real story is that Jobso appears superhuman to the rest of us. This guy saves Apple from almost certain death, finds out he has cancer four years ago, thinks about it first, then goes to have a surgery, goes back to work, awes people some more with his vision and products, makes other CEOs look like wimps. Now, story is almost the same. He finds out something is wrong with his health, goes and has a surgery, no big deal. He will crank out who knows what by the end of the year. And on and on. While others whiteboard and BS about their marketshare, product lines, strategies (or stragedies, depending on who is strategizing), saving the world and sailing their boats, Steve Jobs is moving the industry. Even if he was in perfect health all the while, doing what he does would make anyone look a little drained at times.

    That’s the real story and it somehow escapes the Journos. The real story is that Jobso can do ten times better and ten times as much as all other medicated CEOs combined. If I was in his shoes, I’d be calling people too with an opening line like a “Listen, punk…”

    And guys like Markoff are just like vacuum sellers of yesteryear. They sell something that sucks instead of focusing on what matters.

  9. OhReally?

    Nice, Dan.

    - “there’s a reason this story leaked out in the Times and under Markoff’s byline, and it isn’t because he’s such a dogged, hard-nosed investigative reporter who’s breaking down doors to get at the truth.”

    - “I’ve met John Markoff, and I have the highest respect for him.”

  10. Brian

    Dan, learn from this. Ready-fire-aim is not how you want to be perceived. With your new blog, you have a great opportunity to talk to the world in a different way. As Fake Steve, your venom was hilarious. But as Real Dan, you just sound angry. Sorry, but it’s true.

    The whole Steve Jobs episode is so very yesterday. Okay, so he’s an asshat. But you could not live without his company’s products. It reminds me of an old Jewish joke told by Woody Allen:

    A man goes to his psychologist and says, “Doc, you gotta help me. My brother thinks he’s a chicken.”
    The doctor replied, “So why don’t you bring him to me?”
    And the man replied, “I would. But I need the eggs.”

    I see that as a metaphor for your relationship with Steve Jobs on many levels.

    Okay, so Apple did not do a good job of handling the PR. Neither Apple PR nor Steve Jobs dropped everything, groveled and licked the boots of the media. Deal with it. Truth be told, your pals in the media are equally guilty of being utterly insensitive and degrading to the dignity of a cancer survivor. And except in a rare occasion, such as your mea culpa to John Markoff above, the media almost never apologies when it falsely accuses someone, or fails to get the facts right. And unfortunately, that’s more often than you care to admit. Instead, you just move on to the next hot story.

    This whole episode is hardly a proud moment for anyone. Including you. Nobody wins here. But you and your comrades have a chance to learn.

    Dan, I could not live without my daily dose of Fake Steve. But frankly, I am on the fence about your new blog. Instead of being so angry, find your voice. There must be something to celebrate. Or at least lampoon. You can do better than this.

  11. Real Me

    Reads like it’s legit to me. If so and that’s how you really feel, Dan, then I think it’s very cool and very professional of you.

  12. MikeW


    Loved you as FSJ – still enjoy some of your writing here. But you are loosing me. Just let this “topic” go and move onto other things. I think it’s doing more damage than you realize.

  13. FBO

    Still trying to call. Damnit! FSJ would have never treated me this way. He goes away, and what do I have left? Nothing! Nothing at all. Oh, sure, theirs that ‘little’ POTUS thing in November. Great, just great. Who cares?! Filthy hack!

    - Barry

  14. Nobody's Fanboy

    While some see this as flogging the deceased equine, I think this story has more to play.

    However, the real story is Apple’s secrecy and dissembling nature. Even the Borgsoft is better in that regard. I think it is incumbent on the journalists to continue trying to pierce the veil.

  15. Applonymous

    Markoff is a filthy hack who knows less about technology than your average homeless person. Didn’t he once carry on about how Kevin Mitnick could hack Norad by jerking off on a pay phone or something like that?

  16. Real Journalist?

    This episode highlights the fundamental issue this blog and the FSJ blog poses for Mr. Lyons. He can be a journalist or a humorist/satirist (dealing heavily in the realms of fiction). But he cannot be both.

  17. jpmist

    “I just don’t know what’s real anymore”

    I don’t know specifically where that quote came from, but I’m sure somebody said it and that’s what I’m ironically referencing now. And it ruins the whole vibe when you have to explain it.

    Somebody, maybe it was you, made the point that Jobso had to leak it this way so as not to get caught lying by the SEC if he went the traditional PR route. I buy that.

  18. Will The Real Lastangelman Please Stand Up?

    I love being able to read the sarcasm in between the lines.


    Was Alka-Seltzer® the original Pop Rocks®?

  19. Jason

    ahhh…. the first of many Dan Lyons apologies as he learns how to blog!

    I love how Dan fires first, then realizes that if he kicks Markoff he:

    a) loses the ability to ever work for the NYT tech group
    b) loses the ability to get links/story credits from NYT

    Dan: you’re so brave… you’re such a radical! Kicking a cancer survivor day one and a respected Valley journalistic icon day two. Aren’t you like 50 years old?

    Please blog in an “age appropriate” manner. :-)

  20. Austin

    Just goes to show, if you want RDL to have the same unfettered, gleeful knifing sensibility as (once anonymous) FSJ, you gotta buy enough books to make it worth his while. Otherwise he has to play some level of nice with his targets, just like any other working stiff.

  21. JSG

    It’s funny how many people don’t get the joke with RDL.

    Reminds me of all the people who didn’t get the joke with FSJ.

  22. John Barkoff

    John Markoff was never THE stooge for Apple. It has and always will be Steve Levy followed by Walk Mossberg. Get it straight, Markoff is numero 3.



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