TechCruncher Quits, Slams New Editor—On TechCrunch

Editor calls him 'a misinformed coward'

It looks like the controversy over TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington's move into venture capital and his subsequent departure from the popular tech blog isn't dying down yet.

TechCrunch columnist Paul Carr published a post this afternoon announcing that he was quitting. The departure itself isn't too surprising, since Carr already declared his intention to resign, but Carr also used the post to attack the site's new editor Erick Schonfeld.

When Arrington announced his departure on Monday (following intense media criticism of his decision to start his own investment fund while continuing to write for TechCrunch), it seemed like Schonfeld was the obvious choice as his replacement, since he was already serving as TechCrunch's co-editor. Carr, however, writes that when tension grew between TechCrunch and its owner AOL, most of the TechCrunch team sided with Arrington, while "Erick cut a side deal with [Arianna] Huffington to guarantee him the top job once Mike was gone." He also said that Arrington has called Schonfeld "nothing more than Arianna's pet."

If those are Arrington's words, he hasn't made them public, but there have been other indications that Arrington hasn't been happy with Schonfeld. When the new editor wrote a post announcing the finalists in TechCrunch's startup competition, Schonfeld claimed that Arrington wasn't involved in choosing the companies. Then Arrington posted a comment contradicting him. "You shouldn’t say 'he was not involved in the final selection of these companies' just because it sounds nice," Arrington wrote. "Since it isn’t true, you shouldn’t say it at all."

In response to Carr's post, Schonfeld tweeted, "I accept your resignation @paulcarr. Nice timing to post that while I am on a plane. You are a misinformed coward." He later posted on TechCrunch, declining to "get into all the details of what happened behind the scenes" but insisting that his appointment wasn't solely due to Huffington, and that Huffington has "personally guaranteed" to mantain TechCrunch's editorial independence.

So will other TechCrunch writers be following Carr's example? AOL's tactics seem to have driven other writers away in the past, with a big part of gadget site Engadget's staff resigning this year, and at least one of them blaming a new strategy called "the AOL Way."

At TechCrunch, Carr has been the most outspoken in his criticism of AOL's handling of the situation. But writer MG Siegler (who had earlier said criticism of Arrington was misguided, since he exerted little editorial control over his writers), wrote a post last week declaring that AOL's interference might lead to "the end of TechCrunch as we know it." So it seems that Carr isn't the only one who's unhappy with the parent company's treatment. Other writers have also expressed support for Arrington. (Siegler declined to comment this afternoon on Carr's post.)

On the other hand, the fact that most of this drama has played out through posts on TechCrunch suggests that the site still has some of the editorial independence that its writers say they're afraid of losing.