Kara Swisher on Katie Cotton

Kara Swisher, back in 2014, on Katie Cotton’s retirement from Apple:

Did she sometimes ice our reporters out, ignore calls or reply with newsless answers? Sometimes. [...] Did she try her hardest to showcase Apple and its products in a way that benefited it? Yep. [...] Was she vocal when she did not like something we did? And how.

So what?

That kind of hard driving is part and parcel to the business, even if she was harder driving and, because of that, more successful than most. As she once told me when we talked about her outsize reputation in the tech press: “I am not here to make friends with reporters, I am here to put a light on and sell Apple products.”

It was no surprise that some used the opportunity of her exit to drag out their complaints in the kind of strange rage that has been — at least to my mind — oddly emotional and sometimes full of vitriol that would never be directed at a man who was similarly strong.

Consider the various words used to describe her: “Queen of Evil,” “wicked witch,” “cold and distant,” “frigid supremacy,” “queen bee” and, perhaps most obviously misogynistic, “dominatrix.”

I always appreciated Cotton’s forthrightness, and part of that is Apple’s institutional default to “no comment” when asked about anything other than what Apple wants to talk about. Those “no comments” seem to downright offend some reporters, but to me, they’re a sign of respect. Better not to say anything at all, and waste no one’s time, than to offer up a lengthy but meaningless pile of bullshit, which in my experience is how most PR teams operate. If you wanted Katie Cotton to coddle you or bullshit you for an hour, you were going to be disappointed. If you wanted Katie Cotton to respect you, you simply needed to respect her and her team at Apple.

As for the misogyny she faced at every step of her career, a lasting part of Cotton’s legacy is that Apple’s PR team remains full of women. I’d wager that Apple PR is majority women, in fact. I could contact Apple to ask about that, but I think I know the answer I’d get.

Monday, 10 April 2023