Owen Thomas was the first technology writer to publicly out Apple CEO Tim Cook as gay in Gawker’s Valleywag back in 2008. Years later, Apple TV+ was making a show about Gawker Media until chief executive Tim Cook found out about it and killed the project.
The show was called ‘Scraper,’ but it was clearly about Gawker Media, the network of aggressive, transgressive blogs that created mischief and headaches for America’s powerful until its targets sued the company into oblivion in 2016.
Two Gawker veterans sold the idea to Apple TV+, the new streaming service: Cord Jefferson, who left the site for a career writing for TV, and Max Read, Gawker’s former editor in chief. Apple hired two more former Gawker editors, Emma Carmichael and Leah Beckmann, as writers, and they had completed several episodes, people close to the production said.
One of the executives involved in the project soon after received an email from the CEO.
Mr. Cook, according to two people briefed on the email, was surprised to learn that his company was making a show about Gawker, which had humiliated the company at various times and famously outed him, back in 2008, as gay. He expressed a distinctly negative view toward Gawker, the people said. Apple proceeded to kill the project. And now, the show is back on the market and the executive who brought it in, Layne Eskridge, has left the company. Gawker, it seems, is making trouble again.
From beyond the grave, Gawker is revealing another reality in this era of media consolidation: that the chief executive of one of the biggest companies in the world, who testifies before Congress and negotiates with China, also decides what television shows get made. A spokesman for Apple, Tom Neumayr, declined to comment on the show’s demise.
Of course Apple CEO decides what shows Apple TV+ makes!
It’s not like Cook personally oversees each and every new Apple TV+ project, but him being the CEO means he ultimately has the final say and the power to shoot down any in-progress projects if they might dent Apple’s pristine brand. In 2018, Cook personally killed a Dr. Dre biopic due to too much violence and nudity. And that’s how it should be: a CEO should cherish a hands-on approach and should be involved in company projects throughout development.
The article continues:
And you can understand why Mr. Cook was surprised to learn that his company was making a show about Gawker. The site represented a particular irritant to Apple. The most famous incident came in 2010, when Gizmodo got its hands on a prototype of the iPhone 4. Steve Jobs pleaded to get it back, police close to the company raided an editor’s house and Gawker reveled in the chaos.
But Mr. Cook also has a personal grievance with the site, which in 2008 responded to a glowing article about the low-profile executive by floating the rumor that he was gay. (Other coverage had used euphemistic expressions like ‘intensely private’ lifelong bachelor.) When Apple named Mr. Cook to lead the company in 2011, it made no mention of his sexual orientation, but Gawker’s Ryan Tate introduced him as ‘The Most Powerful Gay Man in America.’
Mr. Cook later wrote proudly of his identity and said he’d long been open with people in his personal life. But Mr. Tate said he thought frequently about the story afterward and even wondered whether Mr. Cook’s parents had known about his identity before the report.
It would be easy to dismiss Cook’s decision to scrap the show as pure revenge, but it’s way more complex than that. Gawker Media and its former outspoken proprietor Nick Denton, who himself came out relatively late just like Apple’s boss, has shown to have absolutely no respect whatsoever for people’s privacy and thrived on creating controversy no matter what.
This is also fascinating:
Fortunately for aficionados of Gawker, there’s another version out there: The well-regarded production company Anonymous Content bought the option to develop a 2016 article on Gawker’s fall by Jeffrey Toobin, a frequent target of the site, according to a person familiar with the deal. But perhaps unfortunately for its prospects, Anonymous Content is partly controlled by yet another person close to Apple, Steve Jobs’s widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.
While Gawker would usually cross lines that needed to be crossed, such as focusing on sexually abusive figures like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby — three were numerous cases when it just went too far in pursuit of a good headline.
As someone who was born gay and has come out relatively late in my life (but not on my own terms!), I can honestly tell you that what Gawker did to Cook in 2008 was not just plain wrong, but quite shocking as well. Nevermind that Cook is the CEO of a publicly-traded company, the decision to come out as gay is a private choice. Like with illness, sexual orientation is an intensely private matter and people should have the freedom to make the decision whether or not to come out. And click-hungry journalists have no business making that choice for you.