TechCrunch Writer Skewers New Editor In Resignation Letter

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September 16, 2011 2:22 p.m.

Updated 8.48 am ET, Saturday, September 17

That’s one way to burn a bridge.

TechCrunch writer Paul Carr, one of the website’s most vocal and consistent critics of its relationship with corporate parent AOL, posted his resignation “letter,” on the blog late Friday, lambasting new editor Erick Schonfeld for “f***[ing] over… the whole of TechCrunch” and comparing him to a “crying baby.”

Schonfeld has been on the job less than a week.

Carr begins the post with a Hunter S. Thomspon quote, explaining that his resignation from the popular gadget blog should come as little surprise since he himself threatened to resign on September 8 unless departing editor and founder Michael Arrington (who was fired from the blog by AOL’s chief of content Arianna Huffintgon due to a perceived conflict of interest between Arrington’s editorial integrity and the new startup fund he launched) was allowed to choose his successor.

Carr writes that Schonfeld might have been that person, but accuses Schonfeld of having “cut a side deal with Huffington to guarantee him the top job once Mike was gone.”

As Carr alleges:

What I knew last week, but can only write now, is that while Heather, Mike and other senior editorial staffers were making a stand for the site’s editorial independence from The Huffington Post, Erick cut a side deal with Huffington to guarantee him the top job once Mike was gone.

The irony is that had Erick stayed strong for just a few days, he’d would have been appointed interim editor anyway, with Mike’s blessing. Mike and Heather were even considering Erick for the permanent position but had concerns about his ability to retain (in Fred Wilson’s words) TechCrunch’s “swagger.”

Later, Carr goes over the post-firing spat between Schonfeld and Arrington that occurred on Schonfeld’s first post as editor. He also adds the following unflattering description of Schonfeld for good measure:

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Despite the fact that he fucked over Mike and Heather — and, by extension, the whole of TechCrunch — I don’t think he’s a bad guy. There are times, in fact, when I positively like him: he works hard, crosses the t’s and is a fine, and experienced, analytical reporter. He’s just — what’s the word? — hapless. He is a man utterly devoid of ‘hap’. Hating him for being expertly played by Arianna Huffington is like hating a baby for crying on a long-haul flight. He doesn’t understand why people are mad at him, he just wants to be fed.

Carr, author of The Upgrade, a book about his year spent living out of hotel rooms, also adds that he has no immediate plans for his future. On Twitter, he said he had boarded a flight for Las Vegas.

Schonfeld had not responded publicly at the time of this posting, But Boing Boing editor Xeni Jardin piped-in on Twitter: “Seriously, I would *very much* like for some Final Cut wizard to re-cut the TechCrunch dramz as a Spanish-language telenovela.”

Let’s all hope someone takes her up on the invitation.

Late udate: Schonfeld responded to Carr’s post 4.16 pm PST with the following Tweet:

I accept your resignation @paulcarr. Nice timing to post that while I am on a plane. You are a misinformed coward.

Second late update: Schonfeld late Friday posted his own, lengthier response to the resignation letter on TechCrunch, “Paul, I Accept Your Resignation,” in which he defends himself and his agreement with Huffington to take over the editorial reigns, saying he will not remove Carr’s post from TechCrunch because it would not be honoring Carr’s original agreement to write for the website. Schonfeld writes:

Paul’s resignation post reads like the brave stand of a man of principle. But the truth is that Paul doesn’t really know what he is talking about. And he certainly doesn’t speak for TechCrunch. He is not even a full-time employee. I tried to reach out to him and was hoping to have an honest conversation about his future (or lack thereof) at TechCrunch. Instead, he blindsided me with his post by publishing it as I was boarding a plane.

At any other publication, Paul would have been fired long ago. And his post would be taken down. But I will let it stand. When Paul was hired, he was promised that he could write anything and it would not be censored, even if it was disparaging to TechCrunch. I will still honor that agreement. Paul likes to groan a lot about TechCrunch’s supposed loss of editorial independence. Yet he cannot point to one instance where he was blocked from saying what he believes on TechCrunch, and I am not going to start to do that now.

He later clarifies, per Carr’s original argument about Schonfeld cutting a side-deal with Huffintgon for control of the site; “To suggest that Arianna appointed me editor single-handedly is untrue. Also, I want to be very clear that I accepted the editor position at TechCrunch under the condition that our editorial independence be maintained. Arianna Huffington personally guaranteed to me that would be the case and that she has no interest in influencing our coverage.”

In the comments of Schonfeld’s post, Michael Arrington decided to take another dig at his replacement editor, writing: “This is just sad.”

Read the full post on TechCrunch. Also late Friday, Schonfeld tweeted about the incident again, saying: “Anyone else feel like venting? It’s certainly good for traffic on a Friday night.”

On Twitter late Friday, Carr tweeted his own response to Schonfeld’s response: “LOL. Thank God he accepted.” Later tweeting: “I’m trying my best to reply to all of these tweets. If you don’t hear back from me, pick one from: a) Aww, thanks b) Fuck you c) Oh, Erick.”

On Saturday morning, TechCrunch writer M.G. Siegler, who had previously thrown down the gauntlet and said the result of Mike’s firing and replacement by an AOL-appointed editor: ” will break TechCrunch,” took to his own personal blog to vent at both Schonfeld and Carr for their posts.

I found Paul’s post tactless. And I found Erick’s response inappropriate. Perhaps both are fitting given the entire clusterfuck that is this situation. But both are also quite sad.

Siegler also calls out AOL and Arianna Huffington in particular for being the main factors in the unraveling of the current TechCrunch dynamic:

I’m just sincerely worried about the state of AOL that they seem to have a total disregard for the actual situation. TechCrunch is a key property and one of the few bright spots in their portfolio. But to them, it’s apparently just numbers…

There is exactly one person to blame for all of this — and her name is not Erick.

It remains to be seen what Schonfeld, Sigeler, and the surviving TechCrunch staff, do from here. We’ve reached out to AOL and will update when we hear a response.

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