TechCrunch ignited fireworks all weekend, from TechMeme to the Wall Street Journal and from Washington DC to the United Kingdom.
How does the master TechCruncher do it? Should he be emulated?
The Michael Arrington show started last Friday (or late Thursday night) when he posted a “story” at TechCrunch that ought not to have seen the light of day.
The post’s title “Completely unsubstantiated Google/YouTube rumor” (see “YouTube to Google: TechCrunch lays 40% odds") itself says why the “story” was not ripe for publication: NO SUBSTANTIATION.
John Battelle decries unsubstantiation and laments “old school” journalism in his post, “The GooTube Rumours Get Another Round”:
This Google YouTube story is a true marvel of unsubstantiation. While the Journal said last week it had one (off the record) source, and TechCrunch gave it about a 40% chance based on its own anonymous sourcing, the UK papers, apparently trying to get ahead of a possible announcement Monday, are truly outdoing themselves.
The Times UK sources it thusly: "Google is expected early this week to announce a $1.6 billion (£850m) deal to acquire YouTube." In other words, there is no source.
Sky News posts it this way: "Online search engine giant Google is expected to agree a £850m deal to buy video sharing website YouTube." Yup, no source either. Oh wait, save for this gem: "The Sunday Times has suggested the site's owners would welcome financial help to support the cost of hosting the ever-growing number of clips - reported to be £800,000 each month."
While this may well happen, I have to ask, since when have stories with passive sourcing - ie, "is expected to" - passed for journalism?
Arrington is as carefree with the English language as he is with substantiation of “rumors.” The phrase “completely unsubstantiated rumor” is a riddle, as is his additional supposed disclaimer in the post: "Based on experience with these sort of rumors, I’d put this at 40% likely to be at least partially true."
What is Arrington’s “experience with these sort of rumors”? Arrington points to his “YouTube acquisition rumors” post last January 18. This is the post in its entirety:
Rumors are flying that Silicon Valley based YouTube (profiled here) has signed an agreement to be acquired.
Whoever the buyer may be, it’s not News Corp. They have confirmed directly to me it has not acquired YouTube.
YouTube raised $3.5 million in venture capital just three months ago from Sequoia. It was founded in February 2005.
These are his two updates to the post:
UPDATE: (Jan. 19) I am now 95% sure this rumor is innacurate after receiving yet more information.
UPDATE: (Jan. 18) This rumor is highly speculative at this point after reading additional emails I’ve just received.
MY UPDATE TODAY: Arrington apparently changed the title of his post, as can be inferred from the post’s URL: techcrunch.com/2006/01/18/youtube-is-probably-being-acquired.
Is there a moral of the story?
Steve Gillmor on Arrington’s in-person show at the Online News Association Conference in Washington DC:
he's Mike Arrington, walking tall and carrying a big stick…
Nobody has got the high ground on journalism right now, if they ever did, and the storm that results from these "showdowns" does little to prove anything except the ease with which a Mike Arrington can put one sentence in front of the other and inflame journalists who damn well should be inflamed. Because they do a remarkably shitty job of communicating the so-called value of their product as in any way superior to the best of whatever anybody with a computer can muster…
It's hard to cut through the noise; it's simple but dangerous to make enemies. In an interrupt-driven media world, where "bloggers" and "journalists" compete head to head on every story, it's one big race for class president going on here.
The New York Times is a great publication on its good days, a lying pack of self-protective weasels on others. Same for every one of us in the blogosphere. When I see Arrington filibuster on the floor of the Senate, I see one of us out there making a fool, and us proud, of himself.