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Mike Arrington’s risk calculation

Over at TechCrunch Mike Arrington has had a mass of over 310 documents internal to Twitter show up in his inbox.  He’s planning on publishing some, but not all, as the bulk are uninteresting, and perhaps maybe embarrassing to some people, including senior industry folks that Twitter has been trying to recruit. There has been a strong reaction from some quarters, but as Mike says:

We publish confidential information almost every day on TechCrunch. This is stuff that is also “stolen,” usually leaked by an employee or someone else close to the company, and the company is very much opposed to its publication. In the past we’ve received comments that this is unethical. And it certainly was unethical, or at least illegal or tortious, for the person who gave us the information and violated confidentiality and/or nondisclosure agreements. But on our end, it’s simply news.

If you disagree with that, ok. But then you also have to disagree with the entire history of the news industry. “News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising,” is something Lord Northcliffe, a newspaper magnate, supposedly said. I agree wholeheartedly.

That doesn’t mean we are entitled to do anything we like in order to get to that information. But if it lands in our inbox, we consider it fair game. And if we have reason to believe it will be widely published regardless of what we do, the decision isn’t a hard one. We throw out the information that is sensitive or could hurt an individual, and publish what we think is newsworthy.

“(We) publish what we think is newsworthy”, of course, is the challenge.  The first piece TechCrunch published was a pitch from ThroughEyes Productions for a Twitter based reality TV show called Final Tweet.  It was a big yawn, and not in anyway interesting or newsworthy.

Arrington has carefully cultivated the persona of the hard hitting edgy tech journalist of Silicon Valley.  It would be a shame if TechCrunch were to become Silicon Valley’s gossip rag after all the work he has put into it.

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{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Ed Prentice July 15, 2009, 12:46 pm

    You mean it’s not a gossip rag? I must have missed that. I appreciate when someone links to it, but I never go without a recommendation– or in this case a non-recommendation. I’ll hold my nose and keep a distance from this story. Techcrunch is more comfortable at nose-holding.

  • Ed Prentice July 15, 2009, 12:46 pm

    You mean it’s not a gossip rag? I must have missed that. I appreciate when someone links to it, but I never go without a recommendation– or in this case a non-recommendation. I’ll hold my nose and keep a distance from this story. Techcrunch is more comfortable at nose-holding.

  • Andrew July 15, 2009, 5:34 pm

    Why does everyone always look on the the evil side.. TC did nothing wrong, they have every right to publish everything that is sent to them that is newsworthy.

    The lack of anything interesting and the simple fact that Mike even bothered to explain TC's position on rec'v stolen material is the story here, however if the documents showed that Twitter had done something sidious like work with the Iranaian government to suppress tweets or some equally shocking story, we would be talking about the content instead – and the origin of the material would be inconsequential.

  • Alec July 16, 2009, 3:19 am

    I don't think of it as evil, Andrew. However, the first piece of material TC published was not newsworthy at all — it just grabbed a lot of eyeballs. What I wrote was cautionary. Eyeballs are good for Mike's business, but at the risk of a slide into mediocrity.

  • Alec July 16, 2009, 7:19 am

    I don’t think of it as evil, Andrew. However, the first piece of material TC published was not newsworthy at all — it just grabbed a lot of eyeballs. What I wrote was cautionary. Eyeballs are good for Mike’s business, but at the risk of a slide into mediocrity.

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