Mike Arrington takes a fair bit of heat for the stuff he does at TechCrunch — even I have taken a shot at him when I think he has overstepped his bounds, like I did when he made those comments about Dave Winer and Rafat Ali the other day (see post below) — but for the record I think he is getting a lot of unnecessary crap about the dismissal of Sam Sethi from TechCrunch UK.
Much has been made of the fact that Mike doesn’t consider himself a journalist, and how TechCrunch isn’t journalism but something else that combines — or even embraces — conflicts of interest among those its covers, etc. etc. But for what it’s worth, I don’t think Mike has done anything different with respect to Sam Sethi than any editor of a magazine would do under the same circumstances, unless there are significant details that haven’t come to light (there’s a good roundup here).
As far as I can tell, Sam got called an asshole by Loic Le Meur for the review he gave Le Web, then Mike and Sam differed about whether to remove that comment (because Loic felt badly about it), at which point Sam not only left the comment up but wrote a post (archived here) in which he said TechCrunch was going to start having its own conferences in the UK and Le Web was history.
I would agree with Mike that the latter move crossed an important ethical boundary. If you’re the editor of a magazine — which is what I think TechCrunch and Gigaom and PaidContent and other similar networks might as well be — you can’t trash a conference and promote your own in the same breath. That’s just not on. And I think Mike was right to make it an issue. In other words, I think Tom Morris is wrong to call it an example of Old Boys Club 2.0.
It’s too bad Sam and Mike couldn’t work it out, but I give Mike some props for putting it all out there on his blog and taking the inevitable fire from the armchair quarterbacks who see it as an arrogant American throwing his weight around in the UK or whatever. I think he did what had to be done.
Sam Sethi has pointed out that he and Mike were 50-50 partners on TechCrunch UK (which I don’t think was widely known), and that as far as he is concerned it was the decision not to remove Loic’s offensive comment that soured the relationship between the two. Mike’s post, however, makes it clear that it was the decision to promote TechCrunch UK’s events at the same time as he was trashing Le Web.
Mike Butcher, co-editor of TechCrunch UK, has posted a long open letter to Mike about the incident, and Duncan Riley has posted hilarious PDF of the entire debacle. To complicate matters further, there’s a comment on the TechCrunch UK post about Sam’s dismissal from “TCAdmin” (which is the name Mike Arrington had been using) saying: “I was being such a stupid arsehole I am so sorry. TCUK will be back shortly.” Someone spoofing the name, or has Mike reconsidered?