Real Journalism, VentureBeat Style

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And that, by the way, is why anyone who cares about real journalism mistrusts TechCrunch—Dylan Tweney, VentureBeat

TechCrunch has plenty of critics. But I don’t think I’ve ever read such a botched attempt at a takedown as a post published this evening on VentureBeat by Dylan Tweney titled, How TechCrunch’s back-room deals destroy its credibility (which has now been taken down—here is a splogged version). Tweney emailed me about 20 minutes before he posted claiming, “We have proof that you guys trade favorable coverage for future exclusives, and we’re going to publish this evening.”

What exactly was this “proof”?

Apparently, the founder of a startup sent VentureBeat an email trying to get some press for a minor news item in exchange for future exclusivity. In the email, which was addressed to VentureBeat, he mentions the name of a Techcrunch ad sales person. Also, a VentureBeat writer is married to an advisor of the company. (Yeah, I am confused too). That’s it.

I am not sure what this proves other than that Tweney does not know what the word “proof” means. Perhaps it proves that some startups will do anything to get coverage. What makes this even worse, was that the email was actually intended not for TechCrunch, but VentureBeat, as the startup founder Verdi Ergun pointed out after the post went up.

We here at TechCrunch were sort of flummoxed by the initial report. None of the writers here at TechCrunch have ever heard of the company or talked to them. We’ve never written about them. And we’ve never run any of their ads. We have no connection to the company.

In other words, VentureBeat’s story, headline, and conclusion were utter bullshit.

Maybe that is why Tweney quickly changed his opening lines from:

AOL-owned tech blog TechCrunch is often accused of trading favors for exclusives.
Now we have proof.

to

Now we have an e-mail that appears to back up the claims.

Actually, VentureBeat didn’t even have that. Someone asking to trade favors for coverage is not the same as someone actually getting those favors. But somehow an email sent to VentureBeat was enough for Tweney to concoct a story from whole cloth about how TechCrunch trades favors for exclusives all the time. For the record, that too is utter bullshit.

While we are on the subject of journalism, here is a suggestion. If you are going to make outlandish claims in search of pageviews, it is a good idea to have evidence that backs up your own claims and headlines. Journalism, whether new or old, is about being right. Also, when you throw a punch, it works better if you are facing your opponent.

Update: TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who obviously has a lot of insight into the way TechCrunch operates, has written a post calling out VentureBeat as well. VentureBeat retracted the story and has apologized.