It seemed like a clear conflict, with bloggers writing about firms in which they might have an investment interest - but the TechCrunch founder didn't see it that way. Now it seems that what Michael Arrington will be seeing is a pink slip.
Arrington, founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, had earlier suggested on the TechCrunch website that AOL sell back the website to its founders - or give it freedom from the editorial control of the Huffington Post.He admitted this might be his last post on the website. Now Fortune is reporting that AOL is not giving TechCrunch its editorial independence. And it is not selling it back to Arrington either. Instead, Fortune says it has learned that AOL executives have decided to terminate Arrington. "It is unclear how this will officially occur," says Fortune. "Maybe a pink slip. Maybe Arrington submits a (public?) letter of resignation. Maybe Tim Armstrong simply gives Arrington a phone call, and he quickly dashes off a note to TechCrunch employees on his iPad." Neither AOL nor Arrington were commenting last night. But the end result (if this is the end) is being seen as a victory for Arianna Huffington. The row started when it it was announced on Thursday that Arrington was forming a venture capital fund to invest in some of the start-ups he and his bloggers wrote about. Investors in Arrington's $20 million CrunchFund included AOL, which bought TechCrunch last year. Many journalists thought a blogger writing about companies in which he or she had a financial interest would fly in the face of traditional principles of avoiding conflicts of interest. David Carr said in The New York Times, "The idea of a news site that covers every aspect of nascent tech companies sharing a brand name and founder with a venture capital firm financing these same companies seems almost comically over the line." Arrington insisted that the fund's activities would not influence TechCrunch's coverage and that he would disclose his investments on the site and in stories. "I don't claim to be a journalist," said Arrington . "I hold myself to higher standards of transparency and disclosure." As the storm grew, AOL announced that Arrington had resigned his duties as managing editor of TechCrunch and "will continue to write for TechCrunch, but will have no editorial oversight." At this point, it is not clear that Arrington will continue to write for TechCrunch Erick Schonfeld will serve as interim editor while the company searches for a replacement.