Shareholders’ meeting makes for an interesting trip

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Over the past decade, I’ve been to Apple’s Cupertino headquarters many times for assorted product launches (the original iPod and OS X, to name a couple) and PR briefings. But Wednesday’s trip for the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting was a new experience for me.

As I approached the media table, backpack in tow, I was informed that no laptops are allowed inside (apparently standard practice at such events—my bad). So much for taking notes on my MacBook. After depositing my bag in the car, I went back inside, where I was greeted by two courthouse-y metal detectors.

As a member of the media, I was instructed to go upstairs to an overflow room with a video feed of the meeting. Since Apple didn’t issue a badge or name tag, however, I could have just as easily walked into the main room (I didn’t).

Without my laptop, I found myself scavenging for something to write on. (Would anyone notice if I grab that newspaper in the hallway?) Luckily, some of the other journalists there had come better prepared, and I was able to borrow a few sheets of paper from Cnet staff writer Tom Krazit (thanks!).

And then there was the meeting itself. People spoke to defend shareholder proposals (PDF link), comparing Apple to other large companies to point out where Apple could be doing better—mostly in regards to the environment, health care, and general corporate transparency.

A few people even made digs at board member Al Gore, on whose shoulders they’ve placed Apple’s entire environmental policy. (Winning an Oscar and a Nobel Prize raises your profile on these matters, apparently.) One particularly cranky man took to the microphone several times to seemingly offer a disenting opinion on whatever was being discussed. (His charge that the proponents of some of the meeting’s proposals were “socialists” became a running theme throughout the morning. You will not be surprised to learn that he opposed Mr. Gore’s re-election to the board.)

But perhaps the most bizarre moment came at the end, when a woman who said she represented the Parents Television Council, an advocacy group that protests TV programs it deems to be not family-friendly, got up to ask a question. She was upset about what she called “Apple-sponsored shows” (presumably because Apple advertises during their broadcast). These included Family Guy, South Park, 24, and Two and a Half Men (she said she’d driven two and half hours to be there—coincidence?), which she said contained violent or sexual content. She specifically referenced a lap dance scene from Two and Half Men, and quoted research saying that children who watch shows with sexual content are more likely to be sexually active. In response, chief operating officer Tim Cook, who’s filling in for Steve Jobs during the CEO’s leave of absence, cited Apple’s efforts on parental controls, and said he’d look into the matter.

I'm sure Cook will get right on that.

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