Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Memo to Don Graham: Thar He Blows…

volcano

Another day, another tech blog eruption featuring Michael “The Volcano” Arrington of TechCrunch and, this time, Wired’s Betsy “Ain’t-Backing-Down” Schiffman.

When last we checked in with Arrington, he was elegantly telling Chris Shipley that her longstanding tech conference might want to take a dirt nap. Specifically: “Demo needs to die.”

But that’s not all!

Before that, Arrington was comparing tech blogs to gangs and contemplating bloody fights with some post-bashing tango. In it, he advised tech blogs not to raise money and talked of the importance of sector roll-ups without, oops, actually mentioning TechCrunch was both considering raising money and doing a roll-up of tech blogs.

Here’s one incredible quote from the piece: “Personally, I’ve found that if a fight is necessary, fight clean and fight hard. Make it as bloody as possible and end it fast, with no loose ends dangling about. Leave no lingering emotional stone unturned. When everyone gets up and dusts themselves off, the issue should have been resolved one way or the other, and both sides should be happy to shake hands and tango another day, even if the handshaking is done privately.”

washingtonpost

In the latest kerfuffle, Schiffman wrote what was a minor criticism at the very end of a piece about a syndication deal that TechCrunch struck with the Washington Post (WPO).

She wrote: “We’ve got nothing against TechCrunch, but it seems crazy-crazy to us that the Washington Post, a paper known for the sort of reporting that can take down U.S. presidents, is publishing content written by a dude who invests in the companies he writes about. But what do we know.”

Snarky yes, but Arrington writes like this all the time (as does BoomTown).

More importantly, since Arrington does actually invest in several companies and says he also advises some covered by TechCrunch (see here in a very short disclosure, given he invested his own money), it is not an outrageous point to make related to a deal with a venerable media institution like the Post.

In any case, Arrington has got to have heard this one before and in much worse ways.

I know I have many times due to my relationship with Megan Smith, who is currently a vice president at Google (GOOG), as is disclosed here in detail, even though I do not own one single share in the company and–TMI–we split all costs exactly down to the penny (except for all those pricey over-and-above-birthdays-and-Christmas toys she likes to buy for our kids, which I sensibly refuse to pay for).

As I wrote in my disclosure: “I am well aware of the controversies surrounding ethics online now swirling about, some of which have resulted in giving readers some pause about the quality and honesty of some in the blogosphere. Such wariness is always a good thing for everyone and I encourage readers to ask tough questions and demand more of those providing them information of all kinds. I know that I am asking for a large measure of trust from readers of the site, and I pledge to do everything I can to be deserving of that trust.”

So I get maybe being irked, especially if you are trying to be as transparent as possible, and maybe writing Wired a stern note saying it was unfair.

But instead of that, he chose to respond by putting out another set of classy bons mots on Twitter: “Wow. F*** You too, Wired.”

In a post yesterday, peacefully titled “OK, Wired, Let’s Do This,” Arrington blamed this explosion on “a night of heavy drinking at the Time 100 party.”

OK, maybe he’s drunk and incredibly rash, but it was liquor imbibed at a very important soiree!

bookburning

But post-drinking, I assume since it was posted in the afternoon, Arrington followed up with another winner on Twitter: “No one at Wired is responding to me today about their post yesterday. I’m organizing a Wired burning party (the mag, not their offices).”

Well, phew, just the magazines on fire! Ha, ha, ha!

Actually, not funny at all–I am just humorless about book-burning, so I will take any and all criticism on the subject for that stance, given the ugly history of the burning of media–but there you have it.

Except not at all.

Arrington wrote his own piece yesterday, which was meant to be reasonable, although it was seeping with indignation about small slights over when and how Wired responded to him (which appeared to have been done, but not to his liking, as Wired’s follow-up responding to Arrington’s antics recounted) and with too much of a gotcha focus on what is a dumb, name-calling tag word Wired used on the story.

But while he was right about the juvenile tag, Arrington then, like clockwork, in the very same piece called Schiffman a “troll.”

Well, at least he’s consistent.

But not at all like what I know the Washington Post expects from those it affiliates with, which is to say making the highest and most strenuous efforts to be civil, fair and temperate.

While it has not always succeeded at this–its Janet Cooke debacle in the early 1980s, for example, was a black eye–the Post has always tried to aim for the highest of standards.

How do I know this? Because I started delivering mail at the Post while I was in college at Georgetown University, was later an intern there and then a reporter for a decade more.

dongraham

I could not be more proud of my time there or be more in admiration of the people who work there every day–even in these tough times for newspapers–who try very hard to act, when representing the Post, as professionals.

No one exemplifies that more than the Post’s owner and CEO Don Graham (pictured here), whom I admire profoundly. At once a gentle soul and also wise to the ways of the world, Graham is a true hero of mine.

While I love my various jobs at Dow Jones (NWS), I have missed being at the Post many times over the years, and Graham and I have always been in touch.

So I am very sorry to see the Post dragged into this temper tantrum by one of its new contributors, sullying its fine reputation.

And if it is just showboating, as some have suggested–a traffic-inducing faux wrestling match for the cheap seats in the back (and they are cheap)–than it is a lousy show.

In any case, Arrington will surely once again–as he has–claim that competitors like Wired and also this site should not comment on his behavior at TechCrunch (and, just to be clear, AllThingsD, wholly owned by Dow Jones, is not vying with TechCrunch to appear in the Washington Post either).

But standards and public online conduct are an increasingly important issue, if the blogosphere–as I believe Arrington must want also–is to have the kind of credibility it deserves.

And while Arrington and I obviously do not see eye-to-eye on a lot of stuff–I have criticized some of TechCrunch’s practices and Arrington’s own professional behavior directly to him via email and to others and I have even written about it several times (here, for example)–I do admire TechCrunch’s energy and relentless focus and the way it has forced others to compete more rigorously in covering the Web 2.0 sector.

And, lastly, whether Schiffman or I question such a syndication deal, it really does not matter, since it is solely up to the editors of the Post as to what they want to publish.

So, if they choose TechCrunch, that’s their decision.

But–and I can’t wait to see what delightful name Arrington slings at me for saying so–TechCrunch, in accepting what is a real honor and validation from one of this country’s great media organizations, should be ashamed of returning the favor by dragging the Post into a largely unprovoked and dirty gutter fight.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work