TechCrunch's Misdirected Rant

Heather Green

Mike Arrington's screed against the critics of his disclosure practices deals in two of my favorite words: strawman and scapegoat. I only bring it up because the strawman and the scapegoat he's using is the mainstream media. The problem is none of this really helps the debate about disclosure.

At the risk of boiling this down too much, Arrington starts his post by talking about an email from an Australian reporter who he thinks is out to do a hit job. He uses this to extrapolate that traditional media is starting to see "Techcrunch as newsworthy enough to attack." Then he goes on to trot out the old bloggers v. traditional journalism trope, how blogging doesn't fit into neat boxes (sorry, you though financial newsletters were like magazines were like CNBC's Jim Cramer?), and finally that traditional media use their publications to try to "destroy" Techcrunch.

Oh dear. I think Mike Arrington has done a great job at creating an audience for himself and helping redefine media. But let's review what tends to happen. As debates grow online, reporters for the traditional media will begin to follow them and decide to write about them. Of course, the tack they take when they write about them is a different story. But the idea is that they are basically reporting on what's happening.

It seems to me that's what happened here. During the past week, I was hearing about this debate about disclosure and TechCrunch from bloggers and podcasters--not from other traditional reporters. The Australian reporter wasn't creating this debate out of thin air.

So, that's the strawman and the scapegoat that I first mentioned up high.

But the bigger issue seems to be that a certain standard about disclosure evolved (again among some publications) over the past few decades. People who took that standard for granted (again whether it was followed or not), are now the readers and creators of blogs and podcasters. And they're discussing whether that standard should apply to this new medium, or everyone in it, or no one or some people.

This is an important debate. Media is being reshaped and so are the assumptions about it.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.