As Arrington himself notes in that quote above, TechCrunch even published documents obtained from Twitter by a hacker. I can't think of any mainstream sites that would do something like that, because hacks like that are illegal, and publishing the material could be considered promoting illegal activity. (Being a lawyer, Arrington should know that, so one has to assume he just didn't care.)
It would seem TechCrunch doesn't considers itself bound by normal journalistic rules -- like staying within the law, naming its sources, confirming that anonymous sources don't have a vested interest in the deals they are leaking, and admitting when they get a story wrong.
So here's my question: Why didn't TechCrunch break the story about the AOL acquisition? They clearly had it first. The reason is obvious: Because publishing that rumor would very likely have soured the deal. This means the site is already censoring itself to serve its own -- and its new master AOL's -- interests.
I'm betting it won't be the last time. (The wags at eSarcasm have a few other ideas about what might change at the new AolCrunch/Techmerica Online.)
AOL appears to have taken a largely hands-off approach with two other popular blogs it acquired in the past, uber-Hollywood gossip site TMZ.com, and Engadget. And it claims it will do the same for TechCrunch.
But TechCrunch is a different beast. It has Arrington, who has no trouble making bombastic statements and accusing people of malfeasance and illegal activity without displaying any visible proof. (As he did recently, accusing a group of "super angel" investors with collusion and price fixing.) I cannot imagine that kind of thing will fly very well at the more buttoned-down AOL, whose deeper pockets make it a much more attractive target for libel suits.
I'm predicting a major blow up within six months, and that Arrington and AOL will part ways long before his three- or five-year contract is up. How do I know this? Let's just say I've got some confidential sources with knowledge of the deal.
What do you think of the AOL-TechCrunch deal? Post your thoughts below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "AOL swallows TechCrunch -- but can they keep it down?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringeley's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.