How Michael Arrington’s School of Friendship Journalism Led to ‘AngelGate’

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As far as tech blogs go, TechCrunch, founded by serial entrepreneur and lawyer Michael Arrington, is arguably one of the more influential. Although its traffic isn't growing as quickly as sites like Gawker Media's Gizmodo or newcomers like Mashable, Arrington breaks his fair share of insider news, including AngelGate, the scandal over price collusion that roiled the tech world last week. So it's worth it to take a look at how Arrington finds his information. Inc. magazine's interview with Arrington from its October issue offers some insights:


I never develop friendships with people I don’t actually like. For instance, I write about digital music a lot. And the music labels are notorious for working the press. They’ll leak stuff and develop relationships, and it can actually be pretty fruitful as a journalist to get to know them. I hate ’em. They sue their customers. I see them as Darth Vader. Maybe it’s not fair, but I see the world in black and white. I don’t like them, so I won’t talk to them. My sources are all people I actually genuinely like, and I think they know that. They’re my friends, too.

Arrington, who says he met all his sources in the early days by throwing raucous parties, also details his willingness to hold a scoop — a tactic practiced, although for different reasons, at the New York Times.


Negotiating with companies over how news breaks is a big part of what we do. I don’t think traditional journalists would do this or admit to it, but a source might say, “Yeah, we just got bought, but can you please not write about it for a week, because it might kill the deal?” . . . We probably lose half of those stories, but it’s the right thing to do. It builds trust. People aren’t going to tell you things if they don’t trust you.

All that insider knowledge paid off last week when Arrington heard about a secret closed-door meeting between powerful angel investors. No one would talk to Arrington when he showed up unannounced, but afterward two attendees who felt uncomfortable about what was discussed confessed to Arrington, who put the allegations up on his blog:


Collusion and price fixing, that’s what. It is absolutely unlawful for competitors to act together to keep other competitors out of the market, or to discuss ways to keep prices under control. And that appears to be exactly what this group is doing. This isn’t minor league stuff. We’re talking about federal crimes and civil prosecutions if in fact that’s what they’re doing.

During the course of what came to beknown as "AngelGate," TechCrunch also got its hands on a private e-mail from Ron Conway, the de facto godfather of the venture-capital world, chastising those who attended the meeting for losing sight of their purpose, as well as a leaked e-mail from attendee Chris Sacca, who disputed Conway's take.

One would think that would make things awkward this morning at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference when Arrington hosted a panel on investing with some of those same names, including Conway, Sacca, and Dave McClure, another attendee who refuted the accusations. But rather than explode, the group sounded like it feigned politeness, referred back to earlier missives, and deemed the Hitler video spoof of the controversy "hilarious." All this chumminess is heartwarming, but we hope there's some follow-up on the disturbing allegations that started this.

The Way I Work: Michael Arrington of TechCrunch [Inc.]
So A Blogger Walks Into A Bar… [TechCrunch]
AngelGate: Chris Sacca Responds To Ron Conway [TechCrunch]