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?

Sadly, today's blog post is not about the royal wedding, but it is about a royal pain in the ass known as Michael Arrington. It's also more generally about what's happened to the profession that I have called my own for the past 397 years.

To summarize: Apparently at the prodding of All Things Digital's Kara Swisher, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington wrote a blog post this week clarifying his journalistic ethics -- or, rather, his lack thereof.

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In short, Arrington said he has resumed investing in companies he and TechCrunch write about, after curtailing his investments two years ago when complaints about his ethics arose. Now, Arrington says, it's OK because he'll always disclose that he's invested in these companies when he does write about them.

Right. So here's a question: If Arrington learns of bad news about one of his key investments and decides to ignore it completely, how exactly is he going to disclose that?

Besides violating the ethics policy of any publication I am familiar with, including any that has ever had the misfortune of employing me, this also violates the ethics policies of his current employer, AOL. Or it would, except that AOL made an explicit exception for Arrington, according to an email it sent to Silicon Alley Business Insider.

... in order to avoid conflicts of interests, AOL Huffington Post Media Group editors, writers, and reporters may not have a financial interest in a company or industry that they regularly cover. … [But] Michael Arrington operates from a unique position. He was an investor in technology companies and startups before he started TechCrunch, and his extensive knowledge of, and involvement with, Silicon Valley is one of the very things that has made TechCrunch a must-read site. TechCrunch is committed to transparency. Michael Arrington has written about the guidelines he follows -- that he rarely writes about companies in which he is an investor, and that when he does, he clearly discloses this information.

Just to clarify: All those penurious reporters who are making Wal-Mart wages are not allowed to invest in any startups. Their millionaire boss, however, can. Silicon Valley Watcher's Tom Foremski notes the many other ways that making an exception for Arrington will destroy what's left of TechCrunch's credibility.

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