Here’s a little journalism fun fact for you—if you are a person of some accomplishment, chances are your newspaper obituary is already about 90-percent written. Oh, not the how, when, and where portion of the obit—that would be a tad creepy. But the major accomplishments of your life, famous quotes, notable blood feuds—have all been compiled into neatly ordered paragraphs in anticipation of you shuffling off this mortal coil.
There’s a simple, only mildly ghoulish rationale behind this approach: It saves time . Seconds after your ticket is punched, some editor somewhere will be screaming for copy about your life and times. If most of that is prewritten—again, just the major, already-recorded-in-the-pages-of-history stuff—then all the writer has to do is fill in the details of your untimely demise, how you choked on that ham sandwich or wandered into that bear’s den or agreed to do some drumming with Spinal Tap.
(Unrelated side note: I have always vowed that, should I become famous enough to merit the prewritten obit treatment, I will spend the years of dotage doing wild, out-of-character things. It will keep the obit writers on their toes for one. And for another, it will amuse me from the Happy Hunting Ground to know that I’ve left behind a record of my life that will include sentences such as, “In his later years, Mr. Michaels’ accomplishments as a technology writer and humorist were frequently overshadowed by his work as an international jewel thief and penchant for streaking at public events.”)
What works for obituaries also works for certain kinds of news stories—the kind that have been percolating for years on end, with lots of backstory and twists and turns. Want an example? Say there’s this rock band that was real big in the 1960s. And let's further pretend that there’s been a spot of unpleasantness between this mythical rock band and a computer maker of some repute, only now the two are on the verge of burying the hatchet once and for all. The clever journalist would write up a few paragraphs chronicling the long, tortuous history involving the rock band and the computer maker so, that once détente had been reached, the article would be good to go, pending the addition of the who, what, when, where, and why.
Or to put it another way: For what seems like since the dawn of time, I’ve had a Beatles-Apple story sitting on my hard drive in anticipation of the Fab Four finally finding their way onto the iTunes Store. All the important details of the assorted legal tussles between Apple and the Beatles’ Apple Corps are there; all that needs to be added is the time and the place of the reconciliation, how vigorously Steve Jobs and Paul McCartney shake hands, what song gets performed at the press event, and how badly Ringo gets snubbed. Every time there’s an Apple event, I open this story, change the verb tenses around, and hover my finger expectantly over the “Publish” button. And after every Apple event, I wind up filing the story back where it belongs when the anticipated Beatles-on-iTunes storyline fails to materialize.
Last week’s press event was supposed to be different. This time, the Beatles were going to show up, by gum, and finally, my news story—now old enough to rival some ports —would get to see the light of day.
Or not, as it turns out. Definitely, not.
Steve Jobs wrapped things up a week ago without the much-anticipated Beatles sighting. Again. Making those of us who predicted such a thing look quite silly. Again .
Well, I’m through with it. Maybe the Beatles will show up on iTunes before I’m a toothless old man as Steve Jobs insists they will, maybe they won’t, but I’m done with all the tea-leaf reading and veiled hints and winks. No more Beatles predictions from me. No more “This time, it has to happen” rationalizations. No more analyzing Apple invitations like they were Zapruder film clips, searching for clues that the Beatles’ arrival is imminent. Nothing—you hear me? Nothing .
Well, except for this—this is that news story that I wrote and updated and updated again in anticipation of the Beatles-on-iTunes denouement. Rather than have it continue to collect dust, I’m publishing it so that it finally sees the light of day. In the interest of journalistic accuracy, i’ve updated it, one last time, using strikethroughs and ALL-CAPS insertions to make it accurately reflect the end of last week’s press event.
San Francisco—Apple marked the arrival CONTINUED ABSENCE of the Beatles at the iTunes Store with a performance by Paul McCartney KT TUNSTALL at the end of special press event.
“It’s great to be here,” McCartney TUNSTALL said. “This is perhaps the most excited I’ve been since John, George, Ringo and I performed on SAW A RERUN OF The Ed Sullivan Show .”
“As a fan of the Beatles KT TUNSTALL since the ’60s RECENTLY, this is a tremendous thrill for me,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said. “I have all their HER albums— Abbey Road DRASTIC FANTASTIC, Sgt. Peppers , EYE TO THE TELESCOPE, The White Album AND OTHERS. And now, they’re available on iTunes JUST LIKE THEY WERE BEFORE.”
The arrival of the Beatles on iTunes APPEARANCE OF KT TUNSTALL DOES NOT end years of legal disputes between the rock band and the computer maker. Apple Corps, which is NOT the business arm of the Beatles KT TUNSTALL filed suit against the computer maker in 1989, alleging that Apple was violating a 1981 trademark coexistence agreement by selling products with MIDI-playback capabilities. That case was settled in 1991 when Apple agreed to pay Apple Corps $26.5 million; KT TUNSTALL RECEIVED NONE OF THE SETTLEMENT. The legal tussles resumed more than a decade later when, in 2003, Apple Corps, AND NOT KT TUNSTALL, again sued Apple, arguing that the introduction of the iTunes Music Store and the iPod violated the 1991 agreement in which the Cupertino company agreed not to distribute music. A British judge ruled in favor of the computer-maker in 2006. The two Apples announced in February of this year that they had resolved the remaining issues in their long-standing dispute. KT TUNSTALL HAD NO COMMENT ON THE JUDGE’S RULING.
There. Now let us never speak of the Beatles again, at least until the next Apple product launch event.