This story is not going to surprise long-time Apple watchers. The Washington Post is reporting that the New York Times is steamed over not having access to Mountain Lion in step with its main rival the WSJ that reviewed Lion ahead of time and got one-on-ones with Apple executives, including a Q&A with CEO Tim Cook.

Other arms of Rupert Murdoch’s empire have also received planned Apple leaks for years in exchange, the NYTimes asserted, for positive coverage of Apple.

Says a source at the Times: “They are playing access journalism…I’ve heard it from people inside Apple: They said, look, you guys are going to get less access based on the iEconomy series.”

Tim Cook shot off an email last month in response to the Times’ iEconomy reporting. He said, “We respect every worker in our supply chain,” in a long, yet quickly worded email to employees.

As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are.

It is not a shocker that Cook is pissed off at the NYTimes and cut off access. If you have covered Apple for a long time, this is beyond obvious and a fact of life. It happened to other reporters in the past, as well: Remember when Dan Lyons was revealed to be behind the Fake Steve Jobs blog? Apple then blackballed Newsweek from Apple events/coverage when the publication hired him (and, in fact, dissuaded Newsweek from hiring him).

The level of access the NYTimes got is questionable. Columnist and longtime friend of Apple, David Pogue, tweeted that he’d been using Mountain Lion for a week yesterday before his review went up a little after 1PM ET:

But the Times didn’t get the customary access to executives that its competitors and even some bloggers got.

Moreover, it is not just Apple doing this—other companies do it as well. It is an industry standard. Companies who can afford to pick and choose coverage use their sway to get the kind of coverage they want. However, it is for good reason. Companies want positive reviews of their products through publications that they can trust to deliver.

The NYTimes’ cutoff is an obvious warning shot to other publications that those types of iEconomy stories will not be tolerated.

That is just the way the world works, but there is flip side to all of that…

Publications in “Apple’s stable” cannot do the kind of reporting that the NYTimes has done over the past months. So, rather than being beholden to the whims of Apple, the NYTimes can focus on their readers.

Under normal circumstances, that combination of shortcomings would qualify as an embarrassment for the New York Times. Yet if the lack of access is even remotely related to Apple’s dim view of the paper’s investigative reporting, the paper may take pride in losing the hunt for “Mountain Lion.”

It appears the NYTimes’ reporting is having real consequences. Following the Fair Labor Association beginning audits of Apple’s supply chain, Reuters reported Foxconn announced today it will be raising the wages of junior level workers in Shenzhen by 16-25 percent. The workers’ pay has risen from approximately 900 yuan per month (approx. $150 US) just three years ago, to between 1,800 and 2,200 yuan (approx. $350 US) following the pay rise. Foxconn last raised wages in June 2010 accounting for an approximate 30 percent increase.

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