Oh boy. At this point, even the shit-show is becoming a shit-show. According to Dan Primack at Fortune, Mike Arrington has been fired by AOL. My inbox is full of emails from journalists, friends and total strangers — all asking if I can explain what’s going on. The vast majority of those correspondents are clearly hoping for a mass walk-out of writers if Mike is really gone. The Atlantic Wire is already predicting what might happen post-walkout.
Meantime, Mike has gone to ground — presumably somewhere in his fortified Seattle compound — although with apparently as little idea as any of us what the final outcome will be. Primack’s story says it’s a fait accompli, while others say the situation is “still developing”. I spoke to a senior staffer at TCHQ yesterday who told me “No-one knows anything. It’s bizarre. Surreal.”
Rather than replying to a billion emails, or appearing on Bloomberg, or talking to PBS or Tweeting something threatening-but-ambiguous; here’s my position. And it’s basically unchanged from where I was last week.
TechCrunch lives or dies on its editorial independence. Right now, that means TechCrunch — in the person of its founding editor — must be allowed to pick its next Editor In Chief. Arianna Huffington has made clear that she wants Mike gone and TechCrunch to be assimilated into Huffington Post, under her direct control. That means whoever she might pick as “editor” will be little more than an avatar for her; a cardboard cut-out installed to do her bidding. That’s so ridiculously unacceptable a situation that the idea makes me feel physically sick. It will be the death of TechCrunch and everything we’ve all worked for these past years.
Sure, the brand will live on — and as long as we keep writing about cool apps we’ll probably still get amazing traffic. But traffic and a famous domain name is not why I — or most of the TechCrunch staff and editors I’ve spoken to in the past few days — came to work here. As Fred Wilson wrote earlier today: “TechCrunch also has a voice, a swagger, a “fuck you” attitude that comes from Mike… They need to keep the remaining team, the voice, and that attitude if they want to remain at the top of the world of tech media.” Damn fucking right.
Presumably, given how much TechCrunch and AOL both have riding on the success of next week’s Disrupt conference, an announcement as to TechCrunch’s future leadership must be imminent. I’m not going to speak for the other members of the team, but my own position is clear: unless Mike Arrington appoints his own successor, guaranteeing that TechCrunch retains its editorial independence, I’m gone. Done. Out of the door.
Ceding control to the Huffington Post will be the death of everything — the voice, the swagger, the “fuck you” attitude — that makes TechCrunch great; and I’m not going to stay around to watch that happen.
Ok, glad to have cleared that up. Now I’m going for lunch.
[Photo credit: woodleywonderworks]