AOL's continuing war on Web journalism, the TechCrunch edition

Ethics, schmethics! AOL/TechCrunch's Michael Arrington doesn't need your stinking rules -- so do you need his stinking stories?

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No matter. Arrington wrote:

Other tech press will make hay out of this because they don't like the fact that we are, simply, a lot better than them. That's fine, but when you read their coverage, remember that they're our direct competitors, even though they won't "disclose" that particular conflict of interest. Luckily they don't get to make the rules we operate under. We do, and you, as readers, can choose to accept those rules and read, or not and leave.

I'm going to censor my response to that "a lot better than them" comment for now, much as it pains me. Is TechCrunch faster to many stories? Often. More accurate? Not so often. Better reported, written, or analyzed? My ass. But clearly I'm just saying that because InfoWorld is a direct competitor to TechCrunch and we're all jealous. That must be it.

Does new media mean new rules? Not exactly. Sure, the barriers to entry have been whittled to a nub. Any lout with a legal degree and loud opinions can start a blog, get investors, hire green writers, turn the blog into a 24/7 news operation, then cash it out for millions before people grow tired of it. You no longer have to learn the ropes by being a cub reporter and having your hand slapped by a grumpy old editor when you screw up or, worse, get canned when you violate the rules.

As a result, you never learn the rules. Or, because your blog has plenty of readers and is making money, you decide the rules don't apply to you. Since you've attained a position of power and influence, you have a ready chorus of lackeys who are happy to back you up, regardless of how asinine you sound to people who actually do this for a living.

The problem here is that you still need to earn your readers' trust. Even here at Notes From the Field -- where the primary mission is to put the biggest tech players on a skewer, dose them liberally with snark, and roast them over a open flame -– trust is essential. If I suddenly started doting on one company or consistently ignoring it when it screws up big time, the Cringe faithful would quickly smell a rat. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Here's my personal disclosure: I don't invest in any companies I write about. With the wages InfoWorld pays me, I can barely invest in a Starbucks venti latte three times a week. It's kind of a moot question.

As for TechCrunch, if you were already skeptical about the stories it has published in the past, this certainly validates your skepticism. And if you believed it entirely? You and Arrington deserve each other.

Have I been too hard or soft on any companies? Ignored stories that deserved more coverage? Focused too much on those that didn't? Help me mend the error of my ways below or via email:

This article, "AOL's continuing war on Web journalism, the TechCrunch edition," was originally published at Track the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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