By: Jason Williams
Being the nerd that I am, when it came time to do this media analysis on Question & Answer sessions I could only do one thing; look at a Q&A session on the heated topic of “Antennagate,” a seemingly explosion of bad press over the design of Apple’s new iPhone 4.
This Q & A is from a press conference that can be found in a few different forms, live-blogged by engadet.com and transcribed by allvoices.com & gizmodo.com(although strangely done, in my opinion). The issue is nothing old, the very first day the smart-phone hit the market it seemed that the press had to find something negative to report on. Gizmodo.com (which has had a recent history of needing to find things wrong with Apple since a certain event that I won’t get into but you can read all about here happened) posted a story about antenna issues with the new “revolutionary device.”
Fast Forward to Friday July 16, and you have Apple holding a press conference addressing the iPhone 4’s antenna problems, CEO Steve Jobs gave a speech announcing the company’s decision to give away their “Bumper” cases to help ease the problem that has been “over”-reported with the phone. After his presentation, where he gave stats about just how little this problem is affecting the millions of iPhone’s out there, at least according to the figures they can gather based on calls to their AppleCare service or the dropped calls reports from AT&T, Jobs then gave a chance for the invited press to ask questions.
In reading through this Q&A I noticed just how easy it is for a session like this to not get straight forward answers from the parties. While some questions were softball, like the reporter who asked about Jobs’ health, others focused on the issues and were real hardball questions, but if the question was too difficult the CEO generally could squeeze around the issue by rephrasing the question and then saying he didn’t understand the question.
What I found most interesting about this Q&A though were not the questions but the setting. The press conference was held on Apple’s home turf, 1 Cupertino Way in Cupertino, California. Jobs gave himself a home-field advantage, much the same way it is for the Press Corps in the White House briefing room. This type of setting would be ideal when your asking questions about the person, because you want a certain level of comfort so they can tell you about themselves. But, when you need to discuss an issue I would think that it would be inherently possible for questions to be easily avoided when the person feels comfortable in their own home or office. I’ve experienced this in an interview with University officials too, skirting the issues becomes too easy when they are comfortable and they control the interview. Which I’m sure is what the Apple CEO wanted.
This works for Apple but I think that because there was never a level of comfort for the reporters it didn’t work for them, they were unable to push Jobs on the issue because Jobs always had the advantage and controlled the flow of the press conference.