In the past, I have been critical of Michael Arrington, founder and former co-editor of Techcrunch, over several issues. I’ve questioned his journalistic integrity (even when he claims he’s not a journalist) and some of the conclusions that he has made in his writing (such as his asinine statement that Digg shouldn’t listen to its users so much; that advice didn’t turn out too well). Still, I have always admired his ability to say what he means and mean what he says, and through the whole Arrington/Huffington/AOLington debacle, he has been in the right.
He isn’t asking much. All he wants is for AOL to hold up their end of the bargain or sell the site back to the original investors. It’s that simple.
For their part, AOL has botched the situation as badly as it can be botched. They weren’t really sure what they were saying when they were saying different things last week. This week, it hasn’t improved. They are still demonstrating a lack of understanding on how to manage both websites and personalities. The biggest mistake – not bringing Arianna Huffington into the mix and up to speed before announcing CrunchFund to the world.
Had they made that difficult but necessary move, they would be in much better shape than they are now. Instead, they have an angry editor in Huffington, a loss in their already-low level of credibility, and one of the most powerful tech blogs in the world rebelling against them.
I would like to see Techcrunch leave AOL altogether. The situation can still be salvaged, but only at the expense of reduced power and loss of face for their high-dollar, high-impact editor of all things in the AOL blogosphere. They painted themselves into a corner.
Unfortunately, Arrington is also hurt greatly by the way this is all panning out. Part of the appeal that investors would find in CrunchFund would be the inside information he would be able to supply. It may sound dirty, but this isn’t akin to insider trading. It’s simply taking knowledge that is given and/or investigated and applying perceptions of that knowledge into wise investing decisions. With or without the information that Techcrunch gets, investors have the ability to get the information on their own. Techcrunch simply offered a venue to expedite the process.
Unfair? Yes. Illegal? No.
In the end, Arrington and Techcrunch will likely get to have their cake and eat it to. A Techcrunch with complete loss of credibility is relatively useless to AOL. A Techcrunch that loses its identity is a powerless piece to Huffington’s empire. A Techcrunch without Arrington isn’t really Techrunch at all.
For the first time ever, I’m rooting for Arrington.