Friday, October 14, 2011

Gawker Gets It Wrong: The Cancer Did It

 Gawker, which is just one of the many excellent reasons the New York Times keeps cutting staff (I have yet to see an article “tweeted” or “liked” by anyone under the age of 30 from the Times) carried the following inflammatory story yesterday which zipped around the blogosphere faster than a Joe Biden expletive moment:
 Harvard Cancer Expert: Steve Jobs Probably Doomed Himself With Alternative Medicine
 Having established a provocative statement of purported fact in the title, Gawker’s unfortunate story led off with a howler of first sentence:
 Steve Jobs had a mild form of cancer that is not usually fatal…
 That statement is wrong.  How wrong, we wrote about in 2008, here.
 In fact, the five-year survival rate on the kind of “mild” islet cell tumor Steve Jobs had been diagnosed with in October 2003 is 42%.  Mathematically, of course, that means the cancer is indeed usually fatal.  And Steve Jobs survived seven years.
 Now, a big part of the problem is that Apple as a company did the medical world—and the blogosphere—no favors by downplaying Jobs’ condition over the years.  (And we wrote about that here.)
 For example, when Jobs appeared at a conference in 2006 looking like, well, like a cancer patient, Apple actually said, “Steve’s health is robust and we have no idea where these rumors are coming from.”  Two years later the company claimed Jobs had “a common bug.”
 With all the disinformation spread about Jobs over the years, it is no wonder Gawker got it so wrong; but, having gotten it so wrong, they ought to get it right.

Jeff Matthews
Author “Secrets in Plain Sight: Business and Investing Secrets of Warren Buffett”
(eBooks on Investing, 2011)    Available now at

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anon said...

Here's an interesting piece from an oncologist, claiming otherwise:

john said...

Sort of off topic, but I was forwarded an email which stated that the reason why Apple and Steve Jobs has eaten Microsoft and Gates/Ballmer alive is because of...the government. That Microsoft couldn't innovate because of the antitrust suit and big government's boot on its neck. People see what they want and every story is an opportunity to make a point, spin or profit. Interesting times.

Jeff Matthews said...

Interesting point. But I wouldn't blame the government. MSFT's problem is Windows--everything it does has to drive Windows. They couldn't kill their own monopoly. So they compromise...and once you compromise, you make mediocre stuff.

It seems no coincidence that their most successful non-Windows-based product is xBox, which doesn't use Windows...


john said...

More interesting comparison (which also makes your point) is Sony, which owned a record label and made mp3 players. It was a bad combo which opened the door for Apple (or someone else) to blow them out on portable music players. It'su unreal that the company that made the Walkman could miss the opportunity to make the iPod. Comporomise, though, as you say.

My thing about the email I reference was that it obviously went people (incl. the person who forwarded it to me) who want to see the gov't hand ruining everything. Maybe it was written by someone alone in their basement or maybe it was spun out of a heavily funded conference room. Could have gone either way. That even Steve Jobs' death could be spun into anti-government rhetoric is a sign of the times.