The week’s most talked-about piece of journalism may be Ian Parker’s 17,000-word takeout on notoriously press shy Jony Ive, Apple’s design guru. It begins like this:
In recent months, Sir Jonathan Ive, the forty-seven-year-old senior vice-president of design at Apple—who used to play rugby in secondary school, and still has a bench-pressing bulk that he carries a little sheepishly, as if it belonged to someone else—has described himself as both “deeply, deeply tired” and “always anxious.” When he sits down, on an aluminum stool in Apple’s design studio, or in the cream leather back seat of his Bentley Mulsanne, a car for a head of state, he is likely to emit a soft, half-ironic groan. His manner suggests the burden of being fully appreciated.
Phew. That’s a mouthful of detail. But all in all, it goes down like a sumptuous meal. If you have ever admired an Apple product for it’s simplicity, you have to admire Ive. And Parker’s work is a real achievement. Getting Apple employees to answer even a simple question is nearly impossible; getting to follow the chief elf around The Infinite Loop in Cupertino is simply some kind of magic.
Why am I talking about this? Because New Yorker Editor David Remnick said the piece, again, we’re talking about 17,000 words mind you, is the most read piece in the New Yorker this week. How is that possible in a world that lives on Internet time, where 140 characters is perceived as more than enough?
Parker and the New Yorker succeed because they provided something unique. They provided access to Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. It’s not bland, ubiquitous opinion. It’s not a collection of data points. It’s a fully reported story about a rare man who rarely speaks in public. …
This, my friends, is the key. It’s not aggregation or curation or some coding trick that will save the day. The reason we went to journalism school is because we wanted to tell stories that haven’t been told. Please note that Parker’s piece has been dissected and regurgitated by countless online publications considered way cooler than the New Yorker. They all position themselves as mere wags in comparison. Mashable, co.design and a host of other sites list “top things we learned” about Ive in the profile to end all profiles.
The lesson here isn’t really about Apple’s elegant design. It’s this: Tell stories. Write well. Uncover stuff.