Rob Pegoraro's Faster Forward: Apple rejects Pulitzer winner Fiore's iPhone app

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Apple rejects Pulitzer winner Fiore's iPhone app

A Pulitzer Prize can win you a round of applause in a newsroom, but it won't necessarily get your application in Apple's App Store. Freelance artist Mark Fiore, winner of the 2010 prize for editorial cartooning and the first online-only recipient of a Pulitzer, found that out in December.

His story surfaced this week when the Nieman Journalism Lab blog reported on Fiore's computing rejection in a piece about his critical success. Author Laura McGann wrote that Apple refused to list an iPhone program presenting Fiore's animated cartoons because . . . well, they were mean to name-brand people. She quoted an Apple e-mail forwarded by Fiore:

"We've reviewed NewsToons and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures."

Fiore confirmed that account, said he uses Apple's products, pointed out that the iPhone's YouTube program plays Fiore's animated cartoons on his YouTube channel and called Apple's actions "un-Apple-like" while comparing them to the dystopian vision of its "1984" commercial. Then Fiore said he'd gotten a call from an Apple employee who hinted that if he resubmitted his app, he might find it would get a more hospitable reception.

This escapade raises an interesting question: Now that many news organizations use iPhone applications to publish their work, can Apple evict those programs if it doesn't like their content?

There may be one way to test that theory. A Washington Post writer could denounce Apple's conduct and then ridicule a public figure -- perhaps one connected to the Cupertino, Calif., company -- in a piece that is then distributed via The Post's iPhone app. Here goes . . .

Ridiculing public figures is the birthright of every American citizen, enshrined in the First Amendment. Apple once professed to speak for people who "think different" and, presumably, appreciated that right. Now, though, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs apparently thinks it's Apple's job to comfort the comfortable, sparing them the indignity of being mocked in a smartphone application. Since when is that Apple's work? You have to ask: Why does Steve Jobs hate America?

Okay, Apple: Ball's in your court. Anybody want to wager on the fate of The Post's iPhone app? I'm taking bets in the comments.

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