Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

MediaWatch: Techcrunch Editor Disclosed Only After Swisher Questioned AOL

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 2, 2011

There is a widespread perception within the Silicon Valley community, that when it comes to the media, as long as everything is disclosed about potential reporting biases, then it's OK.

That seems to be why some have defended Mike Arrington, Editor of the influential Techcrunch publication, when he disclosed last week his investments in startups, and said it did create "conflicts of interests."

Some praised his disclosure, saying that as long as his financial biases are disclosed then that's OK.

However, Mr Arrington has failed to meet even these minimal levels of ethical behavior.

He admitted that he has been making investments for "several months" prior to his disclosure April 27.

That disclosure came about only because Kara Swisher, Editor of All Things Digital, put questions to senior AOL executives, the prior day. It's clear looking at the timing of Mr Arrington's disclosure that it came as a direct result of Ms Swisher's investigation, and it was not offered voluntarily, in the full spirit of disclosure, as his post suggests.

AOL senior management forced Mr Arrington to make the disclosure.

So, is it OK among his supporters and readers, that Mr Arrington did not disclose his investments prior to April 27?

Clearly, by the standards of the community that reads Techcrunch, it is not OK that he did not disclose, and that he kept his investments secret for several months.

How long would he have continued to keep those investments secret?

Mr Arrington writes: "I think that this will all be fine." Really?

Ms Swisher says that Mr Arrington is not a journalist but some strange product of new media. I disagree.

He is an editor of a news publication that employs journalists, editors, photographers, etc. It has all the infrastructure of a news publication; and its products: news and analysis -- look and feel like journalism.

If it looks like journalism, and it consistently looks like journalism, then it is journalism -- there is no other measure.

I bet Techcrunch writers will not follow the example of their editor because they know that it harms their reputation and the perception of their reporting.

Silicon Valley's startups deserve to have a level playing field and that means media coverage that is not conflicted by financial bias.


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