Friday, February 05, 2010

Tech Crunched? A Case of 'You Get What You Pay For' or 'What Did You Expect?'

Image:: Michael Arrington, Editor of TechCrunch from yabBLOG
"You can always buy back a lost reputation." — Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #3b
TechCrunch just sacked a 17 year old intern for a scandal involving an exchange of a MacBookAir for a post on a startup. The kid has an apology on hispersonal  blog, and Michael Arrington offered up an apology to his readers on TechCrunch.
"After an investigation we determined that the allegation was true. In fact, on at least one other occasion this intern was almost certainly given a computer in exchange for a post.  
The intern in question has admitted to some of the allegations, and has denied others. We suspended this person while we were sorting through exactly what happened. When it became clear yesterday that there was no question that this person had requested, and in one case taken, compensation for a post, the intern was terminated.  
This was not one of our full time writers, and so the frequency of posts was light. Nevertheless, we’ve also deleted all content created by this person on our blogs. We are fairly certain that most of the posts weren’t tainted in any way, but to be sure we’ve removed every word written by this person on the TechCrunch network."
I'm not sure who is more naïve, the young ex-intern or Arrington. He puts all of this on the kid, but the bribing startup gets a pass? Sounds like that would be a great story and truly about transparency. I'm sure the lawyers chimed in on the "dangers" of such transparency and now I wonder if there's some reason TechCrunch is protecting their identity.
"Treat people in your debt like family—exploit them." —Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #111
While I understand that TechCrunch wanted to distance themselves from the intern to preserve their "reputation" as some form of legitimate "news" organization, the fact of the matter is that they're not.  Their willingness to let an untrained 17-year old post content that carried the weight of news that they were willing to stake their reputation on proves it.

I don't know what Arrington was expecting with an unpaid blogger, let along one who is 17. I think he needed to step up to the plate and admit that maybe this wasn't such a good idea. It's as if they made the decision that the kid crossed a line too far and/or he's a bad apple and they have to distance themselves from him.  Moreover, I think TechCrunch should have taken a more "parental" role, had the kid come clean, did their own mea culpas, and hang the startup in the court of public opinion.

Ethics @TechCrunch
Arrington's ethics aren't above reproach. TechCrunch received hacked confidential materials from Twitter last year. After a firestorm of controversy after he announced he would be posting some of this material, TechCrunch posted a wealth of proprietary information. Not before lecturing his readers on ethics and journalism::
"And it certainly was unethical, or at least illegal or tortious, for the person who gave us the information and violated confidentiality and/or nondisclosure agreements. But on our end, it’s simply news. 
If you disagree with that, ok. But then you also have to disagree with the entire history of the news industry. 'News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising,' is something Lord Northcliffe, a newspaper magnate, supposedly said."
Please. Northcliff's quip was merely intended to couch TechCrunch as legitimate news. What any writer chooses to write about is a conscious decision of how s/he is socially constructing the meaning of the content. I think it matters if content is illegally obtained. as there are consequences for posting such content, i.e., it may create a market for it. It's easy to shrug this off and say, "hey, it's news and people want to read it," but if there's not a really compelling reason for posting illegally obtained content, one runs the risk of being just a Internet tabloid that's hungry for pageviews.

Twitterversion:: Teenaged intern for TechCrunch trades posting for Mac but gets the sack. Did TechCrunch blow it? @Prof_K

Song:: Keren Ann-"It Ain't No Crime"

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