Those of you who hopped on a plane without Wifi Friday evening can be forgiven for not keeping track of what AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher described as “pure twaddle wrapped in ridonkulous grandstanding.” First came TechCrunch writer Paul Carr’s lively public resignation letter. That was followed by newly-crowned TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld’s equally public resignation acceptance. And then, to pile it on, TechCrunch writer MG Siegeler offered a semi-private anti-Huffington IED because hey, it’s no fun if you can’t play too.
Digg’s Kevin Rose compared all the adolescent drama to “a LiveJournal page,” so put on some emo jams and join us, won’t you, as we flip through the pages of TechCrunch’s Burn Book. And, yes, for the most part, you’ll find it at the same URL where the professional tech blog used to be.
I BLAME ERICK
When Betabeat last left the “Housebabies of Silicon Valley”–nothing brings out Ms. Swisher’s playful side more than a moving target, apparently–Mr. Carr had just j’accused! Mr. Schonfeld of cutting “a side deal with Huffington to guarantee him the top job once Mike was gone,” rather than “making a stand for the site’s editorial independence from The Huffington Post.”
Considering the fact that Mr. Carr published his missive attacking Mr. Schonfeld, exposing internal power struggles, and potentially damaging the future of TechCrunch on TechCrunch, once again, we’re baffled by how Mr. Carr defines “editorial independence,” except as letting Michael Arrington get exactly what he wants all the time–in this case: picking his successor. “The irony is that had Erick stayed strong for just a few days, he’d would have been appointed interim editor anyway, with Mike’s blessing,” writes Mr. Carr, before changing his tune a few paragraphs later, “The notion that a Silicon Valley blog should be run by a guy in New York is just ludicrous.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Carr buries perhaps the most disturbing revelation:
Not three days after his appointment, Erick made his first ethics disclosure as TC’s new editor — insisting that Mike had played no part in the selection of TechCrunch Disrupt finalists. Bluntly put, that was not true — as Mike had to clarify in the comments…
“Erick… Please be careful making statements on my behalf. And remember that reader trust is what matters. You shouldn’t say “he was not involved in the final selection of these companies” just because it sounds nice. Since it isn’t true, you shouldn’t say it at all.”
One of these two men is your new ethical champion, Arianna. The other one is the guy you fired.
Considering the number of startups that hype “We came from TechCrunch Disrupt” as part of their origin myth, we fail to see how the guy that influenced a competition, but disclosed it gets crowned the ethical winner. Sorry folks, no champions of reader trust here.
Some viewers took umbrage at the high-minded Hunter S. Thompson epigraph that led Mr. Carr’s post. On TechCrunch writer Robin Wauter’s blog (yes, Mr. Wauters too dipped a toe into the morass, if only to shake off the slime) an anonymous commenter wrote under the name “r8ndom“:
“Do readers actually pay attention to bylines? I see all these adjectives being thrown, like “phenomenal” and “amazing”, like it was Ernest freaking Hemingway writing, but to me all articles look the same – a paragraph on some company, couple of paragraphs on what they do, obligatory screenshot, and a wrap-up clarifying who the investor is and where the founders came from.”
Betabeat begs to differ in this instance. Consider, if you will, Mr. Carr’s jaunty usage of the word “hap” to skewer Mr. Schonfeld:
“He’s just — what’s the word? — hapless. He is a man utterly devoid of ‘hap’. Hating him for being expertly played by Arianna Huffington is like hating a baby for crying on a long-haul flight. He doesn’t understand why people are mad at him, he just wants to be fed.”
I BLAME PAUL
It may strike some as odd that Mr. Schonfeld felt obligated to publish his acceptance of Mr. Carr’s resignation letter on TechCrunch. But let’s remember, people, this is a company where an employee that has been fired threatened to quit by sending a ransom letter, so it’s probably crucial to make someone’s employment status clear.
Mr. Schonfeld dismissed Mr. Carr’s allegations as the delusional ramblings of a wandering freelancer and claimed himself champion on “editorial independence”:
“Paul’s resignation post reads like the brave stand of a man of principle. But the truth is that Paul doesn’t really know what he is talking about. And he certainly doesn’t speak for TechCrunch. He is not even a full-time employee. I tried to reach out to him and was hoping to have an honest conversation about his future (or lack thereof) at TechCrunch. Instead, he blindsided me with his post by publishing it as I was boarding a plane.”
Then he explained his decision not to take down Mr. Carr’s post:
At any other publication, Paul would have been fired long ago. And his post would be taken down. But I will let it stand. When Paul was hired, he was promised that he could write anything and it would not be censored, even if it was disparaging to TechCrunch. I will still honor that agreement. Paul likes to groan a lot about TechCrunch’s supposed loss of editorial independence. Yet he cannot point to one instance where he was blocked from saying what he believes on TechCrunch, and I am not going to start to do that now.
Somehow, this made TechCrunch commenters very angry as they imagined how Saint Arrington would have done it differently. Sadly, Mr. Schonfeld lost the high road by calling Mr. Carr a “misinformed coward” on Twitter for posting while he was about to board a plane. But no one paid attention to the “coward” part for long as the whole discussion devolved into the strength of Mr. Schonfeld’s Wifi signal considering he tweeted aboard the same flight.
As TechCrunch top commenter Charlie Joslin wrote, “I assume these people have each other’s emails and phone numbers so this could be easily solved that way.” One would think, Charlie, one would think.
I BLAME ARIANNA
It was Saturday by the time MG Siegler decided to pile on. Mr. Siegler titled the post on his Tumblr “What Needs to be Said.” On Twitter, Ms. Swisher edited the headline to, “What Needs to Be Said if You’re the Emperor of Me-Me-And-Also-Me!” Adding, “FYI, Rupe doesn’t call us much, cuz we’re adults” in response to Mr. Siegler’s nagging curiosity over why AOL hasn’t contacted him personally about the matter.
“Also the truth: AOL has not reached out to me once in this entire situation. You’d think they might care about something like that. Evidently, they don’t. I’m not losing any sleep over it, but it’s curious.”
“Obviously not, right? I mean obviously he hasn’t given it a second thought about why AOL hasn’t called him, which is why he’s writing about it,” explained business writer Dan Lyons.
After giving his one-word verdicts on his colleague’s version of events, “I found Paul’s post tactless. And I found Erick’s response inappropriate,” Mr. Siegler unmasked the real enemy, pointing the j’accuse finger further up the food chain at Ms. Huffington:
“There is exactly one person to blame for all of this — and her name is not Erick.”
Mr. Siegler also managed to reassure concerned readers about TechCrunch’s future . . . by comparing it to banks with toxic assets:
“But TechCrunch is also too big to fail. One way or another, it will live on. Try as hard as AOL might, they can’t totally fuck it up. That’s just the truth.”
I BLAME SHAKESPEARE
In a brilliant little takedown, Mr. Lyons wonders if these dudes haven’t been watching too much Henry V:
“M.G. also reassures his readers that “no matter what happens,” he’ll be fine. Maybe so, but the worlds of technology and journalism will never be the same! How fitting it is for this band of courageous hacks to go out in a blaze of glory. Burn with fury, oh poets of the Valley! Rage against the dying of the light! Long after you are gone the world will remember that once — yes, once, in a different time — there lived men like you, brave giants who strode the earth with swagger and fuck-you attitude, who feared not the wrath of their corporate overlords, who turned defiant faces upward and bit — yes, bit, with sharpened teeth — the hand that fed them, who stood loyal beside their King and Leader and refused to break ranks when surrounded by the enemy, vowing instead to fight to their last breath.
This — yes, this! This glory, this wonder! This was Camelot! This, my friends, was TechCrunch.”