TechCrunch and its lost Teachable Moment

Steven Hodson

It was a famous speech in Philadelphia during his run for office that President Obama got us to first think about Teachable Moments. The idea being that there are things that happen in our lives that are negative but the way in which we handle those moments helps to define us and our ability to do better.

I first found out about the blowup at TechCrunch this morning when I read our own Kim LaCapria's post about Michael Arrington sacking young Daniel Brusilovsky because of accusations of accepting tech toys in exchange for favorable posts. I have followed that up with reading every post on the matter that came through my feed reader. Just for the record they are:

An Apology To Our Readers Techcrunch Accepts Money for Posts – Fires Under Age Blogger Daniel Brusilovsky Rule #1: be honest The Line Was Crossed Was Deleting All Daniel Brusilovsky’s Posts an FTC Blogger Guideline Violation? [#bruhaha] Tech Journalism Wunderkind in Bribery Scandal Payola allegations prompt TechCrunch to fire teen intern Unpaid Techcrunch Reporter Sacked For Bribe Attempt

So I would say I have a really good grounding on all the angst and finger-pointing that is going on around what Daniel is suppose to have done.

There is only one problem with all this - we have yet to hear a true account of what were the circumstances surrounding this from Daniel himself. His blog post on the affair is couched in a way that would make a lawyer proud but no-where does he come out and say "Yes I did this - it was wrong."

Instead we get:

In some way or another, a line was crossed that should have never been. At this time, I do not want to go into details, but I will publicly say that I am truly sorry to my family, friends, TechCrunch, and especially the tech community.

The sad part here is that TechCrunch, Daniel and us the readers have lost out on a perfect learning moment. Instead of Arrington standing up before his readers, with Daniel by his side - figuratively, and saying that yes Daniel has done something that was wrong and as a publication TechCrunch was lax in its oversight of a young blogger but we both can promise our readers that nothing like this will happen again we get the erasure of a young man's past and quite possibly his future.

Yes what Daniel did, if he actually did it, was wrong but this shouldn't be something that is used to destroy his future in the business. After all it isn't like this isn't something that happens in the blogosphere. As well this isn't the first time that some-one has been caught doing this kind of thing.

In my opinion Michael Arrington, and TechCrunch, missed out on a great opportunity to show the whole tech blogosphere that we do indeed to thing differently. This isn't a media world where a person's error in judgement has them offered up as a sacrificial lamb on the alter of spin control and good PR.

Rather than chopping of the head of young Daniel and throwing him to the wolves of the blogosphere Arrington could have shown us all what it takes to be a good mentor - especially for someone with as much potential as young Daniel.

For Daniel the lesson was easy - you can't hide any skeletons on the Internet. At some point what you do will come back to bite you on the ass. As well, and maybe a more important lesson given his age, is that short term gratification can have a higher price than long term planning and having realistic expectations of the future.

For us the readers the lesson was much the same as Daniel's - there are no door's on the Internet. At some point everything will come out in the open.

Now as bad as what Daniel did was it really cause for TechCrunch to nuke its database the way it did to rid every mention of young Daniel? Isn't that really a bit of overkill given the situation?

It isn't like TechCrunch could tainted forever by every word written by Daniel. At some point (most likely within a week or so given our Internet memory) this would have all blown over. Now though this nuclear reaction is has made me wonder if there is more to this whole story than we are being lead to understand.

Regardless though, the fact is that something wrong happened at TechCrunch and as good as it is that Arrington got out ahead of it the way he did I think he has also lost the perfect moment to learn something and show that TechCrunch is indeed a blog above blogs.

Sorry Michael but you blew it.