TechCrunch writers are speaking out about the news that TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is launching a $20 million venture capital fund, CrunchFund, news that has been met with criticism and confusion since it was announced.
Writer MG Siegler’s post “TechCrunch As We Know It May Be Over” warns AOL against bringing in their own EIC to replace Arrington, saying it would be a “a colossal fucking mistake” and says he’s letting “our readers, know before you find out via a press release.” Writer Paul Carr defends the site against a separate column in the Times that also questions the ethics of the launch. (TechCrunch’s Carr previously wrote a column criticizing the move though supportive of Arrington and the site.)
Both writers talk about the journalistic independence that TechCrunch reporters have, and it’s both interesting and insightful to read these two columns about the situation. But it would be better for TechCrunch if there was a more cohesive message coming from the company leadership on what’s happening.
One unattached onlooker who shared their thoughts with us said all of this could have been avoided with the use of PR basics and more communication. The situation has been further muddled by the terse statements coming from the leadership at TechCrunch and AOL.
Since last Thursday, there have been questions of possible conflicts of interest that could arise from the blog covering any companies that the fund invests in. Arrington said that wouldn’t happen. (He also said he “doesn’t claim to be a journalist” and holds himself “to higher standards of transparency and disclosure” though he has written for the site often.)
“TechCrunch is a different property and they have different standards,” Tim Armstrong, chairman and CEO of AOL added. “We have a traditional understanding of journalism with the exception of TechCrunch, which is different but is transparent about it.”
The blog is hiring a new managing editor and Arrington will be stepping back from his editor position the Times wrote. Then Arianna Huffington, president and EIC of The Huffington Post Media Group, was quoted saying that Arrington had “stepped down” and is “no longer on the editorial payroll” though could continue to write now and again.
Now’s the time for AOL leadership to answer questions about what’s going on clearly and with one response that shows everyone is on the same page. A few more details about the site’s ethical standards and who qualifies as a journalist and who isn’t would be helpful also.