Thursday, August 28, 2008

Premature obituration ...

There's an old saying that everybody would love to know what people are going to say about them after they've headed to the open-air baseball diamond in the sky, but I do wonder if there's is any inherent charm to knowing how your obituary is going to go before it's officially valid. (Someone ask that of Michael Phelps, who at 23 already knows what this first line of his final article will be.) History tells us that the premature publishing of an obit, while uncommon, isn't unheard of. P.T Barnum's obit made the New York Evening Sun while the ailing promoter was still alive to read it, though that was no accident; it was upon Barnum's request just so he could know what it would say about his life. Mark Twain was the "victim" of an unduly early exit courtesy of the press when he was thought to be lost at sea in 1907. And in 2003 someone at spilled coffee on a computer or something, an act that inadvertently published the obit pages of several prominent people, including Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and Dick Cheney (whom, of course, can never die, but that's another conversation for another time).

Now you can add Apple grand poobah Steve Jobs to this list. Yesterday the Bloomberg News Service, apparently while updating Jobs' 17-page obit, ended up publishing it for all the world to see. Granted, the article had holes in the crucial places - you know, like when and how Jobs supposedly reached "sad face" mode - which would have been an obvious clue that something was up here, and it wasn't Jobs' time among us. Still, the incident has caused Bloomberg a touch of embarrassment and may have raised the blood pressures of a few Apple investors, especially considering fears about the health of Jobs, who has dealt with pancreatic cancer and was looking somewhat thin and frail at his most recent public appearance - and who, by the way, has named no successor to his Apple throne.

Bloomberg soon after issued the appropriate retraction, so all seems right with the world again. But will the writers at Bloomberg now have to start from scratch with their remembrance of Jobs' life, now that everyone has seen more than a sneak preview?

No comments: