January 28, 2009
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Carried Away

Someone walked up to TechCrunch's Mike Arrington at a tech conference yesterday and spit in his face. It was the last straw; after verbal abuse, hate mail, and death threats, he's going to step back and think about whether this sort of tech journalism is really what he wants to do with his life.

But I can’t say my job is much fun any more. Startups that don’t get the coverage they want and competing journalists and bloggers tend to accuse us of the most ridiculous things. It hasn’t been worth our time to respond to these accusations; I always assumed that our work and integrity would speak for itself. But as we’ve grown and become more successful the attacks have also grown. On any given day, when I care to look, dozens of highly negative comments are made about me, TechCrunch or one of our employees in our comments, on Twitter, or on blogs or other sites. Some of these are appropriately critical comments on things we can be doing better. But the majority of comments are among the more horrible things I can imagine a human being say.

Roger Ebert has a nice essay on a Sundance contretemps between John Anderson, a film critic, and Jeff Dowd, an over-eager promoter known as “The Dude”. The promoter really, really wanted to get the critic to like Dirt. The critic, having written his piece, wanted to have a quiet breakfast.

Has this event influenced my opinion on "Dirt! the Movie?" How could it? I haven't seen it. It made the cut for Sundance, which is a good sign. Do I think John Anderson should have punched Jeff Dowd? No, I don't.

I think it was inexcusable, and considering the Dude wasn't fighting back, the fourth punch was just mean. You just can't go around doing things like that. In a way, he was threatening The Dude's livelihood. If The Dude had hit back and it got around that a publicist his size was capable of punching a film critic, he might become unemployable. If you are going to be a film critic and attend film festivals, you are going to have to deal with the Dude. That is a fact of life. Often you will enjoy it. He's better than some faceless intern stuffing your mailbox with press releases.

Update: people looking for the Big Break get carried away by the thrill of the inside game. Wiki pioneer and Freshbooks evangelist Sunir Shah describes a colleague who was prepared to spend a million dollars of her investor’s money if it would get her firm a Tech Crunch post, and arguyes that TechCrunch is not a marketing plan.