TechCrunch UK ‘on hold’ over post deemed unethical

Filed as News on December 14, 2006 10:44 am

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When we asked if you wanted to know what Mike Arrington was thinking I don’t think we had “putting TechCrunch UK on hold” in mind.

The recent LeWeb3 conference in Paris (which many bloggers were extremely unhappy at because it turned into some kind of political event) sparked a review post from editor Sam Sethi entitled Le Web3 the good, bad and ugly. According to Arrington (in his later post Putting TechCrunch UK on hold) there wasn’t a problem with that post per se – Sethi had editorial judgement and used it.

Mike then went on to write (and I quote, so that his version of events are not clouded by my interpretation):

Conference organizer Loic Le Meur, however, took offense at the post and left a regrettable comment, calling Sam an “asshole”. I haven’t spoken to Loic directly about why he left the comment, but it is likely he felt betrayed by a partner, and lashed out after being hit all day yesterday with criticism about the conference.

I emailed Loic and told him that while I have no issue with the original post that Sam wrote, I’d understand if he wanted us to delete his comment. He said he would like it removed, and he also apologized publicly on the blog post. I asked (didn’t order) Sam to remove the comment.

If Sam had decided in his editorial discretion not to remove Loic’s comment, that would have been fine. But he didn’t do that. He left the comment in, and then wrote a new post (which I have removed) highlighting the “asshole” comment to embarrass Loic, unneccesarily in my opinion. The fact that Sam did this, ignoring my request not to, and ignoring Loic’s apology, was unacceptable. He saw an opportunity for attention and took it, even at the cost of hurting someone else. I see this all the time – get a well known blogger to lose their cool and then leverage that event for further attention. Sure, Loic lost his cool. But he promptly apologized. He did not deserve to be trashed in a new post.

The subsequent post from Sethi was removed (which some see as a cardinal blogging sin in itself), Sam lost his position at TechCrunch UK, and the whole blog is ‘on hold‘.

It’s hard to be totally objective, as no-one has every side to the story. Here’s a few thoughts based on my mulling over the situation over the past day. Feel free to shoot them down in the comments!

  1. Mike Arrington has the right to do whatever he likes with his blogs and staff.
  2. Anyone who posts a comment on a blog surely knows that it becomes part of the public domain, and is likely to be acted upon. This isn’t a private email. Loic could have refrained from commenting publicly and gone directly to either Sam or Mike.
  3. Mike interestingly quotes “Basic ethical behavior is not subjective.” Oh, I think it is. Maybe it’s not subjective within TechCrunch, but I am sure some (lower profile / snarky) blogs would have leapt at the chance to stoke an online argument. Having said that, it’s not particularly professional behaviour on either side.
  4. Sam shot himself in the foot – as far as TechCrunch was concerned – by publishing stories of his dismissal, and so on (according to Arrington). Still, I doubt it’ll do Sam much harm and he’s bound to land on his feet…
  5. …but as for TechCrunch UK. Well, a promising UK focused “Web 2.0″ / startup blog is now hanging in the balance. Something needs to move quickly or readers will move on somewhere else – just take a look at the comments.

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  1. By Huw Leslie posted on December 14, 2006 at 12:47 pm
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    I’ve just done an exclusive exit interview with Sam Sethi as a podcast. A few interesting nuggets, which haven’t been seen elsewhere.

    http://gizbuzz.co.uk/2006/episode-4-exclusive-exit-interview-with-sam-sethi/

    Enjoy!

  2. By Tony Hung posted on December 14, 2006 at 12:55 pm
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    Andy Merret — welcome to the BlogHerald! :)

  3. By Andy Merrett posted on December 14, 2006 at 1:02 pm
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    Just listening to it now. Thanks Huw. Sounds as if Mike and Sam will probably do something different together. Interesting.

    Thanks for the welcome, Tony, I’ll do an intro post shortly.

  4. By Pat Phelan posted on December 14, 2006 at 7:04 pm
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    “Mike Arrington has the right to do whatever he likes with his blogs and staff”
    Whilst I am a fan of Mike and Techcrunch we are not living in the dark ages and as an employer of 30 staff, I most certainly can not do what I like with them Andy.

  5. blogcomment » Blog Archive » TechCrunch UK ‘on hold’ over post deemed unethical - Blog HeraldDecember 15, 2006 at 3:25 am
  6. By Andy Merrett posted on December 15, 2006 at 3:27 am
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    From the podcast Huw publicised it sounds a bit different anyway. I wasn’t aware of the working relationship between Mike and Sam, which sounded like a 50-50 partnership that Sam said he dissolved.

    Regardless of this, though, an employer has the right to dismiss an employee for misconduct providing that it was laid out in the terms of employment in the first place. I made the statement in context to the situation – I’m not suggesting employers can do whatever they like in any circumstance to their employees! :)

  7. By Martin posted on December 15, 2006 at 4:46 am
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    “Mike Arrington has the right to do whatever he likes with his blogs and staff.”

    Pat is right: this is not true. If Sethi was employed under UK employment law, TC could still have a lot of legal trouble ahead.

  8. By Andy Merrett posted on December 15, 2006 at 8:06 am
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    Supposedly Sethi wasn’t employed, anyway, he was a partner and chose to dissolve the partnership.

    I’ll make myself clearer in future posts as to exactly what I mean, as the spirit of what I said as an opening remark (point 1) seems to have been misinterpreted.

  9. By HART (1-800-HART) posted on December 16, 2006 at 12:19 pm
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    Hi Andy! Good to see you here in my Bloglines .. Good Luck! And, good choice to Abe et al for having you!

  10. The Blog Herald Welcomes Andy Merrett at The Blog HeraldDecember 21, 2006 at 11:37 pm
  11. Using Controversy to Launch Your Blog Network » Blog Network WatchDecember 29, 2006 at 4:39 pm