Social Media's Great Red Meat, A Mere Blip On The Silicon Valley Radar?

What could generate more page-views than a good old fashioned Deep-Throat-like scandal? And TechCrunch, one of the Internet's top blogs and its editor Michael Arrington are masters at this type of reporting. Whether they're lampooning Zynga and their online games as "Scamville," accusing Facebook of stealing from Google or suing Fusion Garage for false advertising regarding its ill-conceived "Crunchpad" project - this TMZ-type of journalism does whet the public's appetite for good story-telling.

Michael ArringtonMichael ArringtonThis past September, Michael Arrington outed "Super Angel" investors for price-fixing, colluding in driving down valuations, shutting out smaller venture capitalists and reported they were hatching a plan to compete collaboratively against Y Combinator and its new start-up model. While at first glance, appearing somewhat tongue and cheek - in his post "So A Blogger Walks Into A Bar. . ."  - Arrington gets real serious, real fast in pointing out that he was not a welcomed guest when he intruded into to a "Super Angels" luncheon, at a well-known San Francisco bar and restaurant.

Like something out of the Nixon-era or a smoke-filled back room from "Mad Men," he provides a blow-by-blow report as to what he believed the highest echelon of the VC food chain were conspiring to do behind closed doors. This of course led to a lot of speculation both from the blogosphere as well as the "Super Angels" themselves.

Chris YehChris YehChris Yeh, from Venture Beat commented how the journalistic community was reacting to the news. He referenced the well-known 20th Century newspaper slogan, "if it bleeds, its leads" and made no bones about Arrington's online blog as a proponent of "conflict and scandal." "TechCrunch has been profiting from these manufactured kerfluffles more than anyone," notes Yeh. Like those of us who root as much for celebrity successes as their failures, Yeh added, "TechCrunch was the first to promote the superangels - now it's the first to turn on them."

While Yeh's report was critical, none were more damning than Dave McClure, founder of the seed stage startup fund 500 Startups, and one of the Super Angels at the alleged nefarious luncheon.

Dave McCLureDave McCLureIn his blog, titled, "Fire in the Valley, Fire in my Belly… and Yes, Mike, I Have Stopped Beating My Wife," he wrote, “unfortunately I probably have more balls than sense, but it drives me f*cken insane to see some bullsh*t superangel conspiracy theory get whipped into a frenzy by people who weren’t there, have no idea what the hell was discussed, and are ready to believe anything when someone yells FIRE!”

While perhaps a wee bit over the top, you can see that McClure was not all that happy with Arrington's accusations, and in the end McClure summarized his feelings for Arrington's use of "collusion to sell the news", with "haters gonna hate, players gonna play."

What's most interesting to a small little ole blogger like myself is that I am just as interested in what Arrington writes as the next guy. I eat it up. In fact, I use it as fodder for my own editorial. But at the end of the day, like TMZ which is another source of the news I'm addicted to - it really doesn't have any staying power.

I Google searched for follow-ups to Arrington's "Super Angel" story, and  absolutely no one has reported on any new evidence as to Arrington's original story being true or false. Which says to me, that the basis for his premise was built on an unsubstantiated foundation. In essence, it "lacked legs," and like today's TMZ stories that cause a lot of waves one day are just as quickly forgotten the next. If anything, wouldn't Arrington have thought to do a follow-up story himself after three months have passed?

In my graphic novel, "Facebooks & Dumb F*cks" which is a satire about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, I took the liberty of lampooning the controversial editor and TechCrunch as well. Here you see Mark Zuckerberg (aka Z-Man) meeting up with Arrington after he was rebuffed by Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Steve Jobs.

Page from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novelPage from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel
As Deep Throat would say, “follow the money.”  So, I admire Arrington's ability to report from the Silicon Valley's big moneyed inner sanctums and his being privy to developments where many of us don't have access. However, if he truly believes in what he reports- perhaps he could take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to do an occasional follow-up, once he breaks a big story. Otherwise, all that we are left with is basically, well. . . story-telling.

For more on TechCrunch's breaking stories, check out my previous posts:

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