Update: Both David Pogue and Andy Ihnatko responded to our request for comment about when they got briefed on Mountain Lion. Pogue did receive an advance briefing and a loaner laptop. See below for details.
The New York Times appears to be pouting a bit, according to the Washington Post, because the paper missed the big exclusives on the release of Mountain Lion this week. The Times has broken a fair share of Apple stories. Times columnist David Pogue is pretty well plugged in and appears to have had early access to the software, but the Times still got scooped on the story and in getting interviews.
This time, the scoops went to the Wall Street Journal with a Tim Cook exclusive interview; some prominent Apple sites (like John Gruber's Daring Fireball) rated private previews with Phil Schiller. All had access to a beta of Mountain Lion about a week before the announcement. The Times had to report on the coming OS release based on press releases, which was somewhat less than glorious for the Gray Lady.
The Times believes it was payback for the articles critical of some of Apple's suppliers, where workers are sometimes working long hours, with poor housing conditions and sometimes unsafe factory environments. The Times quoted ex-Apple employees saying Apple has known about the conditions for a long time and did nothing to pressure suppliers.
Tim Cook was reportedly incensed at the story and called it "false and offensive." So it looks like Apple was able to give the Times some 'payback' that it thought the Times had earned.
The NYT is not the only outlet that appeared to be ignored. Walt Mossberg didn't have a review based on early access. Nor did Apple have Andy Ihnatko looped in, it seems. He has a long piece in the Chicago Sun-Times today but it doesn't appear to be written as if he had the software to play with.
We did reach out to Pogue, Mossberg and Ihnatko for comment, but we did not hear back prior to publishing this post.
[Update: David Pogue of the New York Times replied to our inquiry. His response: "Yes, the reports you've read are incorrect. As far as I know, all of the early Mountain Lion reviewers (Gruber, Mossberg, Pogue, etc.) were given the identical treatment: invitation to Apple's hotel suite, meeting with Phil Schiller, walk-through with Phil and the PR folks, loaner MacBook Air with an early version of the software on it." We also heard from Andy Ihnatko: "I didn't get an advance briefing, but that's perfectly fine. Early access isn't an entitlement. Also, Apple did give me a long phone briefing early Thursday morning. For 90 minutes, I got to pepper them with as many questions as I could come up with."
So is it a tempest in a teapot? Could be, and maybe parts of all the stories are correct. Apple didn't favor some of the usuals with interviews, but many of the columnists and writers got their advance dose of OS X.]
Covering Apple is complicated. If you're a reporter (and we know this from experience) it is challenging to get a comment from Apple in a timely fashion. In fact, most of the time, they only return calls from a favored few. Those who are 'golden' with Apple tend to be downright enthusiastic about most Apple products. They are the reporters who get the advanced hardware and software, and get invited to the pre-release demos.
Most of us do our best to get the news out, and here at TUAW, even though we love Apple, we never hesitate to be critical or suggest that Apple might have blown it in some way. We are not on Apple's 'A' list.
Companies will always grant exclusives to people if they think it benefits the enterprise. That is all well and good. It's the way exclusives work. Apple, however, has a deeper problem. Under Steve Jobs the company made it very difficult for journalists to get even simple questions answered. That hurts Apple's customers. That may clear up under Tim Cook, who seems to be moving Apple forward in areas where Jobs was not interested in changing.
[via The Washington Post]