NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Politicians tweet. They have Facebook pages. There are some aspects of the pervasiveness of technology that can't be avoided, and no reason why anyone shouldn't make use of them in this day and age.
But when was the last time you asked -- or knew -- what kind of computer a politician wrote their speeches on? Or put another way, when was the last time a press account of speechwriting thought it essential to mention the specific computer device on which the speech was being written?
The answer to that question would be the New York Times, on Wednesday, in a Bob Woodward-style "We got the inside skinny" on the "inside doings" of a major moment in political history: the writing of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's GOP convention speech.
Ryan began the process of writing the speech two weeks ago, the Times reports, "entering ideas for his speech on a legal pad or iPad. In recent days, in lengthy sessions with advisers, he reviewed single-spaced drafts of the speech," the Times reports. "No one could leave the hotel room or disembark from his MD-83 jet until an aide typed any changes into a MacBook Pro and all paper copies were shredded or ripped apart."OK, so there's an ad for legal pads in the Times report as well, but that paper is shredded by the end of the paragraph, and I ask you, when's the last time you remember an article in the press mentioning a politician and his advisers working feverishly on their Toshiba Satellite A105 or Sony Vaio E? Remember the famous still image of the White House situation room on the night that President Obama and Hillary Clinton and the rest of the senior staff were awaiting the news of the Navy Seal raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. I bet you don't remember the laptop model on the table in front of Hillary Clinton. If you were wondering why I included hyperlinks to the Sony and Toshiba laptop model pages above, I would answer by noting that it's not because the press and politicians aren't giving them enough promotion: the Times opted to include a hyperlink on the word "iPad" in the story to an entire page on the Times website devoted to iPad stories (though I was happy to see a paid ad for Google's Nexus 7 tablet on that page). I'm not suggesting Apple is paying for product placement, either with the major political parties or the New York Times. Of course not. And it's quite possible that there is no one left in the world today -- among the who's who -- who doesn't use an iPad and MacBook. It's probably a good risk management strategy, as those who don't use Apple products are bound to have their devices confiscated pending the next U.S. court patent decision. The New York Times reporter is certainly a hound for details. He could have said "plane" instead of MD-83. And he didn't need to mention that Ryan was staying in a Holiday Inn (though that probably goes well with Ryan's "average American"/"friend to the out-of-work auto plant employee" image, better than staying at The Ritz). Anyway, there's something that sticks in my craw about these specific references to the Apple products. In movies and TV shows the game of product placement was lost long ago (for those that didn't want to see Apple run away with it). But has it become a subconscious habit of the press to specifically refer to devices only when those devices are made by Apple? As George Orwell documented throughout his career, language is power and the mutability of language is political, and in this case, maybe also capitalist. Until I see mentions of the non-Apple products that Mitt Romney's accountant is using to keep spreadsheet "tabs" on the Romney family's offshore bank accounts, I fear we are headed for an Orwellian world -- on this week of Apple's big patent decision, too -- when specifying use of an Apple product becomes part of society's marketing of power and success. And not just the Times' hyperlink SEO strategy. Apple doesn't even have to pay for the free press, to their credit. That's marketing success. And in the print world of Bob Woodward-"inside access" and, to bring it closer to the Old Gray Lady's home, the era of Too Big Too Fail and needing to know courtesy of Andrew Ross Sorkin what kind of sandwiches former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack's wife ordered for financial crisis power broker lunches -- this is to be expected as a sign of reporting at its best, or at least most privileged. I would just like to see the press start mentioning all those Sony Viao, Toshiba Satellite and Hewlett-Packard laptops out there. Oh, and by the way, in the photo that's in the Times story -- showing Ryan and his advisers on the plane (MD-83), it looks like there is a Blackberry on the airplane tray table. -- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.
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