“The iPad is Awesome,” Says iPad Newspaper

And so does Gabrielle Giffords in offensive new Daily story

Say what you will about The Daily—and we’ve already thrown our two cents in on the first issue—but there sure are some beautiful-looking ads inside. Just today, for example, there are three stunning adverts for Land Rovers, Virgin Atlantic, and the TV show Big Love that have me dreaming of driving to an airport, flying to London, and marrying three beautiful, challenging, but different wives. The problem with The Daily is that, so far at least, it’s occasionally difficult to distinguish between the gorgeous ads and the editorial content. Particularly when it comes to a certain shiny, rectangular device. Hint: it’s the one in your hand.

With Apple netting 30 percent of the revenue from The Daily subscriptions, it’s not surprising that the publication has a pro-iPad bent. And you can hardly begrudge the paper its app reviews, or the slightly tacky “What I Love on My iPad” page, in which a celeb describes his or her favorite apps—if you’re reading this publication, you own an iPad, and you’re probably interested in this kind of curation in the same way a Cosmo reader wants to know the season’s coolest lipstick shades. But other pro-iPad “stories” are less benign, ranging from hilariously transparent to plainly offensive.

Take yesterday’s advertorial editorial, “Superpower of imagination: U.S. can really ‘win the future’ through virtual growth,” by Reihan Salam. Opening sentence? “The iPad, the near-magical device on which you’re reading this column, is expected to generate as much as $20 billion for Apple in 2011.” The rest of the piece feels like an attempt to make that opener a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Salam goes on to argue that ephemeralization (what a beautiful word), that process by which we can do more with so much less—on tablets—offers an opportunity for the U.S. to win the future through developing the next technologies and businesses that will drive the ephemeral world. Or something like that. It doesn’t really matter. The point of this editorial is that America can win the future, and the iPad can help. Take this for grandiosity (our emphasis):

What Apple has managed to do, at the time we needed it most, is help open a new frontier. In 1893, the historian Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the American frontier was crucial to American freedom. As the Eastern Seaboard became thickly settled, it also grew more unequal. But the Western territories offered an escape valve for the weird and rebellious. Once the frontier closed, Turner warned, the U.S. would become tradition-bound and sluggish. That’s not quite what happened. The migration from rural areas to cities helped keep the frontier spirit alive, as did the steady expansion of America’s informal empire.

Now, as holdouts in the former Soviet Union, India and China have joined the global economy, and as even North Korea and Cuba make tentative steps in that direction, there is little room for physical expansion. We can grow upward, but we can no longer grow outward.

Yesterday, I thought this might just be an off-the-blocks lapse in judgment, Salam and the editors indulging in a little too much of the Kool-Aid being drunk at Daily HQ. But today, The Daily features another bizarre standalone “ode to the iPad” piece that’s equally superfluous and laudatory. And offensive.

The story by Elizabeth Saab is essentially a couple of grafs of text attached to a video, filmed before the holidays, in which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords discusses wonders of the iPad. The hook is that Giffords has been using the device in hospital and rehab. There is talk of Giffords’s “amazing progress through iPad therapy,” but the piece is really just a cushy celebration of Apple’s bright new tablet, with a note that, “During her recovery, Giffords has been using her iPad to look at pictures—which her neurologist, Dr. Michael Lemole, told reporters two weeks ago was a “fantastic” advance as it showed “higher cognitive function.” So that’s what “iPad therapy” is.

Here are some sample lines from the video to give you the flavor. You can also watch it here.

Saab (voice over): Gabrielle Giffords was eager to tell The Daily about one of her favorite things: the iPad.

Giffords: It takes me about six to eight hours a week just to get to work. I don’t have a direct flight from Tucson to the United States capitol. I spend a lot of time on the plane. Being able to carry an iPad, particularly being able to have all my documents in the cloud, and be able to access speeches an briefing materials, has really made a big difference, it’s cut down on the size of the binder that I have to bring with me. But also, it allows me to connect to websites, particularly on American airlines, it allows me to do a lot of work offline.

Saab later asks Giffords to share “something fun about your iPad.” Giffords replies, “Just the novelty of having an iPad is kind of cool.” At the end of the video, Giffords says, “It’s a great tool. I’d really encourage people to think about investing in one.”

The lede of the accompanying text story says it all. “Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is doing ‘rigorous’ speech therapy every day and her recovery is progressing—thanks at least a little bit in part to her favorite gadget: the iPad.” Near-magical, perhaps. “A little bit,” indeed.

We don’t know what this video was originally shot for. It seems to have been intended for a story on how a congressperson might use an iPad—or perhaps for the “What I love on my iPad page.” But to drag it up and publish it now, capitalizing on the congresswoman’s attempted assassination, and to dress up its “iPads are great” message as a legitimate story about Giffords’s recovery, raises ethical questions at best. At worst, the story is borderline grotesque. What was sort of funny yesterday is today leaving a foul taste.

The best way to convince us that iPads are near-magical saviors of the press and the nation is not to tell us that they are. It’s to show us that they are. A better iPad newspaper than what we have seen so far would be a start.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor. Tags: , , , ,