Apple's CEO Steve Jobs has been forced to resign on the grounds of ill health, but let's not write the obituary just yet.
Jobs: rumours of his death have been greatly exaggerated
Rumours are beginning to surface suggesting that, despite the obituaries appearing today across ALL MEDIA, Steve Jobs may not, in fact, be dead.
Of course, Jobs is very much alive and I'm being facetious (which is tasteless in its own special way).
After he resigned as CEO of Apple last night, citing ill health, UK newspapers and websites rushed to throw together coverage profiling the man. Perhaps understandably, most of them reached straight for the pre-prepared obituaries cupboard, and pulled out the file marked 'Jobs, S, Mr'.
See also: Steve Jobs at Apple: A timeline
There's nothing unduly sinister or surprising in this, and it's not just because Jobs has survived cancer, and has twice previously had to relinquish the reins at Cupertino. All major news-gathering organisations have pre-prepared obits on all major figures. It's sensible standard practice. But with Jobs it’s different. The man has been publicly ill for a long time, and there’s web traffic and news stand sales to be had speculating about it.
This poses something of a moral dilemma: a man's career is - in effect - at an end, but he remains very much alive, battling a cruel and spiteful disease that will probably take him before his time.
This leads to some unfortunate, speculative stories being written about someone who - I'll say it again - remains a current human, with human feelings (and yes, fanboys, 'superhuman abilities'). It would be hopelessly naive to expect newspapers and websites to leave Jobs alone to get on with his life, but some of the coverage borders on the tasteless.
Actually, that's not a moral dilemma, is it? The right thing to do is to respect the man's privacy as much as possible.
Perhaps someone should mention this to the UK's 'journal of record', The Times of London (I can't link to it for paywall reasons). Today's paper features a blatant and hurried re-write of a pre-prepared obituary, containing the immortal line: "It remains to be seen how his life will be represented by his official biographer, Walter Isaacson." That's right, guys. It remains to be seen how his life will be represented BECAUSE HE'S STILL ALIVE. His life is not over.
On the other hand, I like the BBC's obit - sorry, profile. It was posted initially in January and is well worth a read. Editorial about the man's achievements, history of his life... and then, these final words from the man himself:
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important thing I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life," he said.
"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
He's not dead. Let's hope he remains that way for a long time. I admire the man for seeking the positives in his illness. But I don't know Steve Jobs, and I'm going to try very hard not to advance myself professionally by either speculating about, or voyeuristically reporting on, his health. And you should too.