No, what's laughable is expecting your readership to rely on your characterisation of your relationship with your editor as a guide to the editorial standards of your publication.
The magic at TechCrunch happens because the writers have very little oversight. Instead, the emphasis is placed on hiring the right writers in the first place
Quite often, you never even see what he brings. But it permeates the entire site.
As readers we have a robust yardstick for presuming bias in reporting: financial interest in the subject. It's important that we do have one and writers who claim otherwise should know that they're demanding a serious indulgence. In contrast to Siegler's tantrum: hxxp://allthingsd.com/author/kara/#kara-ethics
Edit: Strange, the 'ethics statement' content block has to be revealed by manual click. The link is in the article tools menu at the top of the page, in faint text.
Edit2: Traced the content from the AJAX loader to here: http://allthingsd.com/index.php?atd_ajax=authorinfo&fiel...
I wrote up an article about them prior to Arrington's resignation:
From Walt Mossberg's version of the link I posted above:
I don’t own a single share of stock in any of the companies whose products I cover, or any shares in technology-oriented mutual funds. Because of this, I completely missed the giant run-up in tech stocks a few years back, and looked like an idiot. However, when the tech stocks crashed, I looked like a genius. Neither was true.
Obviously, those who adhere to this principle are not saints. It just goes with the job.
Edit: Thought this excerpt was interesting (from the article above)
"Arrington told reporters yesterday that he has put a clause in his limited partnership agreement so he can report on anything he likes, and in any way, about his investors and their companies, however confidential, except those he invests in."
In other news, #links are bad for usability. Who knew?
You can't make conflicts of interest go away just by saying, "No, but he's a really honest guy." That's supposed to be a given. That's the entry fee to persuasive analysis and distinguished news reporting. You'd better be honest AND free from conflicts of interest. I don't think there's a world where people take dishonest reporters seriously, just so long as the agent has no conflicts of interest.
Beyond that, no matter how honest you think you are, you are subject to the same cognitive biases that all humans are. As a matter of fact, bias is the rule, not the exception. We've never seen, nor could we really comprehend what a person free from cognitive bias would look or act like. It's completely alien. That's why we have all these checks and balances when apprehending truth, because some of the smartest of us realize that truth is shrouded in a dense fog and all we have is a dim flashlight to make out shapes in the mist.
How powerful and non-volitional is bias? I read the Four Hour Body the other day, and there's an anecdote about how the CEO of Evernote, Phil Libin, did a weight loss experiment. He made no conscious changes to his diet or exercise routine or usual habits. He did, however, track his weight everyday in a spreadsheet and charted a line from his current weight to his ideal weight. On either side of the line he charted boundaries within which his weight should fall for each day over the period. After 6 months, he'd lost something like 28 pounds. Understand, he made no proactive effort to lose the weight:
“I actually made a conscious effort not to deviate from my diet or exercise routine during this experiment. That is, I continued to eat whatever I wanted and got absolutely no exercise. The goal was to see how just the situational awareness of where I was each day would affect my weight. I suspect it affected thousands of minute decisions that I made over the time period, even though I couldn’t tell you which.”
That's why you can't wave your hands over conflicts of interest.
Or, when he talks about the unique challenges facing women in body shaping, his thinking mirrored my own in some subtle ways that I'd never heard anyone else talk about before (possibly because it might seem sexist).
Given that, I tended to trust that the other material would at least be thought provoking. Basically, he's just really committed to self-improvement--which I know a lot of folks around here are--and looks anywhere to find tools and techniques to aid in his quest. There's an emphasis on science, but he's willing to try anything if research hasn't solved the problem yet.
It covers the right things and was fun.
From tech crunch and a number of other providers that find themselves in the top spot on HN I've personally stopped logging through to the actual article until I've at least read a few comments.
Does the discussion warrant my heading through to the full source? Usually, no.
I know that from the general success of these pages and places like Fox News, there seems to be a near-enough-bottomless appetite for histrionic linkbait in the news, so I'm pretty sure it's never going to go away.
Part of me however wonders if there is any correlation between those posts we see from time to time entitled "I'm leaving Hackernews forever" or "Hacker News has gone downhill" and the number of high-drama BS posts that make it onto the front page over a particular timespan. Maybe it's just cumulative over time, you eventually have your "fill" and leave.
I guess I'm kinda just rambling a bit... but it seems to me that TC puts out a lot of noise. Was "angelgate" pre-AOL ? Maybe it's always been that way.
AOL is in no way perfect, but let's not place all the blame on them.
AOL didn't know that, and apparently either didn't care or wished for a conflict of interest.
Arrington knew there would be no conflict of interest from his own actions, but has stayed 'blind' to this conflict in approach from his major LP. For whatever reason, he went ahead with this plan, causing significant agitation at TC, and also indicating to the TC staff how much influence AOL has right now; on paper maybe not so much; with only a few 10s of millions of dollars, though, they can rule Michael's roost.
This isn't going to finish well, but I think we all knew that.
Consider both TechCrunch and The Huffington Post pre-sale to AOL. Which one would you have said made sense and which would you have said not-in-a-million-years? The TechCrunch acquisition was to literally buy credibility, whereas the Huffington Post purchase was to resource a strategy. Arianna Huffington makes AOL stronger in the traits that it has self-selected for. She's going to be just fine.
I don't have any inside information, but one possible interpretation is that Arianna made this announcement to effectively force AOL to choose to either back her or back Arrington. They seem to have backed her, which has strengthened her control over the content engine that more or less drives the current AOL. With both Arrington and Topolsky gone (along with much of Topolsky's team), there's really not anyone there with the stature to challenge her in this area.
Honestly, it looks like she could be positioning herself to be the successor when Armstrong gets the boot for the current straits AOL finds itself in. Why leave the company when you can just run it?
Edit: Huffington clarifying Arrington's (non-)role: http://www.businessinsider.com/mike-arrington-no-longer-work...
Nope, still dramatic and hyperbolic as ever!
Not to sound silly, but contrast this to the usual techcrunch drama (and drama is overly normal over there): Techcrunch being upset that last.fm is calling them full of shit because Techcrunch had some sensationalistic news about last.fm which last.fm was not willing to confirm or deny within 10 minutes and so they went live with the story, unconfirmed, because that is what cutting edge journalism is, because people deserve to know what may or may not be there. Sort of. Wait. Why do people hate us all of a sudden?
That sort of drama. Demeaning to the mind and going at a constant rate over at techcrunch.com.
So... This is still techcrunch and it is still drama, but at least this time (maybe for the last time?) it's different. Feels refreshing, doesn't it?
The title subtly implies TechCrunch may be over, but really it only says TechCrunch will change because of the "As We Know It" clause. You are losing a editor-in-chief, things will change, duh?
It concerns me that a so-called bastion of tech reporting aspires to have all the ethics of TMZ or your friendly neighborhood penny stock newsletter pump and dump scam.
Is there any evidence that TechCrunch _hasn't_ done necessary disclosure?
"If AOL tries to bing in their own Editor-in-Chief to run TechCrunch, it will be a colossal fucking mistake."
I can't believe that rant went live. Somebody is getting fired.
Will it still be the old TC? Is this just about Arrington or is it AOL finally digging its heels in and trying to tame the beast? Or are there some kind of dark machinations behind the scenes that nobody's talking about?
The easy way to answer all of it is by writing something that nobody can ignore. AOL's reaction will show their hand. If they torpedo the article, that's that, If they ask Arrington to use his big swinging editor title for real to kill it then that's that. If they let it sit, then they're willing to let their own property hold them to the fire with the entire valley looking on. Either way, hand-wavy secret shadow dealings are out the window.
TechCrunch reports the news. TechCrunch makes the news. It was ever thus.
If the post is taken down, it will be re-blogged by every other tech pundit from Gruber to Dvorak (hello, Streisand effect.)
If AOL repremands MG Siegler, then everyone will know what happened. Either he'll do another post, or he'll blog about in on his personal blog and it will take off through the bloggeratti. If he's forced into silence, then it will leak out through friends and colleagues.
If AOL ignores it and does what it wants, then the writers at TechCrunch will at least know what they can get away with. It's the Mindsweeper's Dilemma, you can't make any progress among uncertainty unless you take the first step.
MG Siegler probably thought (correctly, I think) that he's not at risk of getting fired and the uncertainty is killing morale.
If he is fired, he knows some other tech blog will snatch him up.
So, it may indeed seem unprofessional, but I give him a lot of credit in trying to "manage up."
In a few months, everybody is going to forget about this whole the episode anyway. Firing him or giving him more ammunition is exactly what they don't want to do.
As a side note (and a snide note), I do find it really quite sweet that in a couple of the pages linked to by the current article they seem to believe TechCrunch has something to do with the concept of professional journalism.
When I think of TC, I usually think of the CrunchPad drama, Mike's sexist comments, Mike complaining about the Google kid standing in front of his car and the CrunchFund conflict of interest.
There are other startup sites that don't have the same arrogance.
> Quite often, you never even see what he brings. But it permeates the entire site.
Which is it?
In any sane universe, Mike Arrington would actually step down and announce his choice to leave TC because of this potential conflict.
I'd have to say that's a sight different from having a personal stake in companies you or your company are writing about.
What benefit is there in airing all your dirty laundry like this? Publicly 'shaming' AOL into backing down?
What benefit is there to keeping it all secret?
I get the feeling that this article is precisely as a result of the 'new media' model of content production at sites like TechCrunch. The author rightly lauds this models dynamism and agility in the article on his personal site (that was linked in the article) but do you think something like this, that's so close to verging on unprofessional, would happen at a more conventional publication? Because I certainly don't.
Open questions: Will this sort of thing become the new normal, as blogs become more mainstream and legacy publications take on some of their attributes? And would it be an improvement if it did?
Yes, TechCrunch should be about tech news and not about their office politics. But does publishing it disproportionately harm their credibility, or does not publishing it give them credibility they don't deserve? c.f. phone hacking by UK newspapers.
TC has a huge impact on the startup market. They are the most powerful tech news business in the world and can literally move the market on a startup with a single blog post. If it is positive your user numbers sky rocket and the VC's are calling. If it is negative your investors are on the phone asking questions.
The CrunchFund gives them skin in the game. TC will determine to a significant extent the value of the CrunchFund portfolio.
We read TC because we trust them to give an unbiased view of our startup world. Yes, MG loves Apple and he gets a lot of stick for it. But what if it came out that all of MG's pension money and savings were in Apple stock. It changes things, right?
If the journalistic trust between the publication and her readers is lost, TC's influence and readership will dissipate.
IMHO the greatest threat to TC is not Arrington leaving. It is the CrunchFund, and the erosion of TCs integrity and credibility that will come with it.
In my experience this is exaggerated. What TC can do is put you on the radar with early adopters for 24 hours. This does not make or break your company. Awareness is only one small problem you have, and TC readers are some of the least sticky hits you will get.
However, TC has become very powerful. Even Googles General Counsel speaks directly to them (http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/25/google-patent-fight). Yes the influence is not a binary 'pass' or 'fail', but it is significant enough for the CrunchFund to benefit from their writing.
I wonder if anyone at AOL even _knows_ how to delete a post from TechCrunch. I guess they could always ask mike to yank that posting... :-)
Between this and the Carr post from a few days ago (http://techcrunch.com/2011/09/02/crunchfund/), they really do seem totally out of control over there... which is far worse.
You cannot possibly say that this doesn't sound like how things are always done at techcrunch. Write first, cause drama, then cause more drama by publishing stories about why you cannot fathom that people has an issue about your way of publishing stories and your unclear communication. Then repeat.
I've long stopped paying attention to the site at all, but I had to check this one out. Hopefully TC will vanish and the internet will gain something better.
Last year, Mike decided to cash out. According to the AOL CEO there had been previous attempts to buy TechCrunch. So one day Mike, who largely covers Silicon Valley, decides to move from San Francisco to... Seattle . His stated reason? Largely, to "mix things up in my life". Washington state, by some amazing coincidence also has no state income tax.
Around the same time Mike dissolves the partnership with Jason Calacanis for the TechCrunch50 conference , allegedly a huge part of TechCrunch's income.
Four months later, having established residency in a no state income tax state and having rid TechCrunch of an external party having a large stake in TechCrunch's income, AOL out of the blue (honest!) buys TechCrunch .
Two months later, Calacanis sues Arrington over TechCrunch50 , a suit I haven't heard anything about since. Honestly, as much as people here like to rag on Calacanis (and Mahalo, which is basically doomed IMHO), I honestly think he has a case here.
To quote Mike Arrington, himself a lawyer, regarding the scandalous clawback clause in the Skype contracts :
> These employees should simply hire a lawyer to sue Skype. There’s a valid fraud claim based on what I’m seeing, and the “atmospherics” (how lawyers describe the legally irrelevant facts surrounding the story that can nonetheless influence a judge and jury) are terrible for Skype.
Honestly I think the "atmospherics" are terrible for Arrington too. The state of California could probably make a case that Mike changed residency simply to avoid tax so they could make a claim that the sale was still taxable too.
Of course, most reading HN will know that any acquisition will typically come with an earn-out over 2+ years. That earn-out, like many vesting schedules, will have a bunch of conditions on it, probably including an acceleration clause for getting fired (termination probably without cause).
Mike wants to get fired.
EDIT: to clarify the residency of California :
> (1) California residents pays California tax on all their income.
> (2) California generally taxes California-source income, …
> So, who is a resident? In determining residency, California law provides two presumptions. The first presumption is that a taxpayer who, in the aggregate, spends more than 9 months of a taxable year in California will be presumed to be a California resident. The second presumption is that an individual whose presence in California does not exceed 6 months within a taxable year and who maintains a permanent home outside California is not considered a California resident provided the taxpayer does not engage in any activity or conduct within the State other than as a seasonal visitor, tourist, or guest.
The point is that there is a subjective test (the last point there). I'm sure Mike dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's (registering to vote in Washington, getting a Washington state driver's license, etc) but if he spends significant time in the Valley it is not clearcut.
I have no idea what your agenda is, but your comment has been discussed ad nauseum multiple times in the past and has nothing to do with OP.
if you are interested in this thread, search for one of the dozen other times it came up with the exact same allegations and exact same characters.
I know I've mentioned it once before, maybe twice. I'll also require citations on the "numerous rebuttals".
this having nothing to do with OP doesn't really need a citation
You certainly seem eager to mischaracterize my comments and malign my intentions when we've already gone from "every time" to "once before". While you're at it, point out where the comment is "copy and paste[d]" elsewhere. Since you can't, we'll chalk that accusation up to yet more slander.
Nowhere did I say changing residence for tax purpose was "illegal". Someone else may have characterized it as such. Take it up with them. There's a huge gap between "illegal" and the state of California making a claim that Arrington is still technically resident so the sale is subject to California state income tax.
You seem to have said this only to only re-open your old claims again, but if you read your supporting evidence, it doesn't backup your claim that Mike wants to get fired.
Now I know absolutely nothing of what is going on - but here is some quick analysis.
First - there is no way in the world that MG wrote this post on Techcrunch without Mike knowing about it. If I were a bettering man, I would wager that Mike prompted it.
The evidence? Every time MG writes a 'meta' post about Techcrunch, blogs, politics etc. he writes it on his personal blog. He has never meta-blogged on Techcrunch. Only yesterday he wrote a post on his personal blog about this situation.
Second - Mike said in the press last week that he will still write at Techcrunch. Because he wants to - because he has to.
And remember the fund was announced without Mike stepping down. The 'stepping down' part came only a few hours later when AOL were forced into the move under some media pressure and scrutiny.
Queue screwing up the press announcement about the fund, AOL going back on their statements and then finally telling the press that Mike no longer works there (without Mike saying anything) and suddenly you have a post, on TC, from MG, that reeks of a last-ditched move orchestrated by Mike
This is all about using a public reaction to get Mike's job back at Techcrunch, and everything back to how it was a week ago.
If you spent the amount of time you did on your comment looking at the actual situation without blinders on you would realize that the real conclusions and any real analysis is the opposite of what you suggest (ie. it has nothing to do with CA residency tax codes)
Ps I did not down vote.
I think AOL tried to have it both ways. With mainstream media revealing the distasteful arrangement, however, AOL has to protect their bigger interest: publishing.
They backtracked when other outlets got hold of the story and started talking about it. The people being back-tracked on, and their friends & partners, are not happy. As a result several prams now contain less toys than they once did.
The business guys think the conflict of interest is a selling point - take CrunchFund money, or risk TC slamming your business! The people in AOL management who actually care about journalistic integrity (both of them?) think it's bad.
It seems the compromise position is to move Mike (the guy who upholds TC's integrity) off TC, so there's no conflict of interest, and move some corporate guy in there to keep things honest.
It's exactly as much of a disaster as it sounds.
It was probably concocted with the intent to remove Mike Arrington, replace him with AOL's own suit that can squeeze more money out of TC, and look like a white knight while doing so, improving the reputation of AOL's "journalism" properties (which are the only significant part of AOL left, really).
I understand this is a violation of Hanlon's Razor, the incompetence seems a bit far-fetched for me. I would expect at least someone in the company saw this coming.
Finally, Arrington is good at this, AOL never has been. No rationale person intentionally picks a public fight with Arrington. If this was intentional on AOL's part, it backfired badly, and is still attributable to stupidity.
Oh, and something tells me little oversight for your writers leads to massive internal communication issues like these...
(real startup stories) vs (product reviews/facebook news) over time
That's where you'll find the problem, I have a feeling it will be sloping in a certain direction.
I'm going to take a look at this drama through an organizational behavior lens, as a case study for the decision facing HuffPo:
TC is a blogging organization whose leader has a strong personality and reputation, though he exerts little to no editorial control over the content of the org. Instead, influences the org by his hiring decisions, editorial policies and culture.
Arguably, those hiring decisions, editorial policies and culture are what has brought such success to this org. That, plus a powerful brand that this leader established from the beginning.
To continue the success of this org means replicating these factors. The brand is already established, but the system that sustains its success should remain as much as possible.
The current team also has a wide soapbox and strong opinions. If the owners of this org believes that the current team is necessary for its sustained success, then the owners will need to appease this team and involve them in the recruiting process of a new leader (if it decides to dismiss the current leader).
The risk of not appeasing this team is a loss of talent. It's certainly possible to recruit new blogging talent, though the current team has significant individual brand equity and established relationships. The org's owners will need to weigh the pros and cons of this as they make their decisions.
That's all my personal opinion though (I just don't take TC that seriously). In the public sphere you can't afford even the appearance of impropriety, and Arrington wants to have his cake and eat it too. If he really wanted to give all his detractors a big "Fuck You" on the ethics front then he never should have sold to AOL. Just in general, you can't sell to a major corporation and believe that you'll still be a scrappy upstart. They might have a hands-off policy as long as it's profitable, but when the chips are down their collective asshole will pucker up so hard it'll pop the old head off like a dandelion.
Siegler needs to grow up and realize that TC was done the day Arrington sold out.
But I also think this article reads a little naive. Probably AOL has other plans for the future. Probably since before they acquired Tech Crunch. All that is and never was about the community or the company. Maybe they wanted to buy the talent Arrington. Maybe they just wanted to shut them up. But I think activating the community now will not help at all. If they are together in a VC fund with Arrington they maybe bought him off to help him let TC die. It's exactly what I would do, if I wanted to kill them (and if I would have the money, of course). First buy the company, make Arrington more rich. Tell everybody nothing changes. Wait until everybody calmed down. Then try to motivate Arrington to do something else and give him some more cash to do it. Then wait a little more. Then turn off the lights and close the doors.
edit I see someone disagreed with that. Why not argue instead of downvote? I really would appreciate your opinion. (Leave the downvote, that doesn't matter. I only want your thoughts!)
Seems like buyer's remorse to me, as they've put themselves on par with the rest of AOL's content farm, even though we all know their content is more well-researched and valuable than that. If they didn't want AOL's money, they shouldn't have taken it. They could have found alternate sources of funding, but maybe not to grow as much or as fast as they would have liked.
Or a news blackout could be imposed on that blog for any companies funded by the founder's VC firm. I suppose the news blackout would be an imperfect solution, since presumably reportage on any competitors to the portfolio companies could be viewed as suspect.
Even if Mr. Siegler insists that the tech blog where he works is a cool place founded by a cool guy, that does not address the perception of the blog from the outside. If there is any perception at all of potential bias, then both the VC fund and the tech blog suffer an erosion of perceived integrity (regardless of whether or not that is actually the case).
Independence is a tricky thing. I think maybe if TechCrunch were not part of AoL, then they could potentially pull off this balancing act. They have enough momentum now that readership won't evaporate overnight, and a few blog posts critical of portfolio companies or complimentary to competitor companies would re-establish their credibility. But a big corporate parent is not going to like that kind of the seat-of-the-pants approach to managing risk. Doubtless somewhere in the bowels of AoL somebody is running the numbers of what would happen if somebody sued along the way, and not liking what they see.
As for Mr. Siegler ranting about his employer on a blog they own, that strikes me as a classic CLM. Big ol' corporations really really tend to hate it when someone down on the front lines starts to think they're irreplaceable and they can do as they please, just because they've taken a lot of bullets and led a few charges over their little piece of the battlefront. A better approach would have been to tactfully address all of the issues he addressed, in the interest of informing the readers, and with the same goal of trying to gin up reader support. But he could have mentioned that he really appreciates the resources at his disposal thanks to the AoL acquisition, and he believes that TechCrunch adds value to the parent firm primarily due to its unique editorial independence policies, etc. As it reads now, he comes off as churlish. Nobody likes to have f-bombs hurled at them, not even dull gray corporate types in upper management. It really burns when those f-bombs are lobbed by someone on the payroll.
IMHO, if Mr. Siegler truly wants to help his boss keep his job, his best move now would be to pull that little rant pronto, and edit it to be a lot more polite and respectful to AoL, throw in some mea culpas about getting wound up too soon, etc. and then re-state his case in terms that corporate can understand and appreciate. AoL might be a bunch of assholes, but they are the assholes that cut his check.
You kind of jump all over the place with your points.
1. professionalism. Yes, they don't exhibit professionalism in the traditional sense. they don't mind airing dirty laundry and posting personal rant posts.
2. Then you get into the question of bias. I think it's clear that they don't pander or hold punches with respect to AOL, their parent company. The whole point of the rants over the past few days has been the fact that these are independent writers who don't feel any particular loyalty to this unaffiliated crunchfund. And they don't like the implications they do.