AOL is balancing a lot right now. In addition to letting hundreds go last week, the media giant is moving toward becoming an editorial powerhouse, sucking up websites like Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch family and Arianna Huffington’s The Huffington Post, which is even hiring more journalists for the occasion. But new partnerships and Brady Bunch-style families require a lot of compromise, and today one of the bratty children swung upwards at Poppa AOL. Sort of! TechCrunch is fighting with Moviefone (!?), The Huffington Post is still fighting with the New York Times and the Washington Post is accidentally publishing edits on the internet — all inside Press Clips, our daily media round-up.
Daddy Issues: TechCrunch writer Alexia Tsotsis wrote a hell of a post today called “AOL Asks Us If We Can Tone It Down,” in which she asserts the independence of her blog, known for its attitude and loyal following, from the company that bought them in late 2010.
In summary, Tsotsis was invited to a film screening of Source Code via AOL-owned intermediary Moviefone, but left the film’s backers at Summit Entertainment sour when she wrote about the movie’s attempts to market itself toward techies, instead of just being nice about how hot Jake Gyllenhaal is or something. Like any good PR ass-kisser, the person at Moviefone heard from a person at Summit and passed on a message to Tsotsis, which she printed in full minus names. Moviefone, on behalf of Summit, expressed being uncomfortable with the “snark” in the TechCrunch post and wondered if it could “be toned down.”
To which, Tsotsis rightfully said fuck off, because bloggers get those requests all the time and they’re horrible and offensive, especially when they’re coming from someone in your company. “We’ve made a loose promise that if AOL ever asked us if we could change our coverage in any way, that we’d immediately publish it. Moviefone is part of AOL, so here you go,” Tsotsis wrote. She concluded: “So no AOL, and Moviefone, and Summit, I will absolutely not tone down my snark. This is Silicon Valley, not Hollywood.”
On one hand, yes. Fuck power!
But it’s also worth noting that Moviefone is hardly AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, whose “The AOL Way” is the kind of thing that has tech readers worried about TechCrunch selling out. And though Arianna Huffington has been named editor of all AOL editorial properties, she hasn’t flex on TechCrunch yet, presumably. Hopefully she never will because they do just fine on their own, but while Tsotsis hopefully sent a message to her bosses, she wasn’t talking directly to them — she just made it look like she was, and people responded in turn. Standing up to some flack at Moviefone isn’t exactly true rebellion. But it is the kind of thing that can get your commenters to say things like, “Wow, way to stick to your guns,” and quell any growing cries of, You’ve changed, TechCrunch.
At the same time, Tsotsis’s post is still badass. The Moviefone putz sucks, as does the Summit stooge, and it’s people like that who make the internet, magazines and newspapers boring to read. But the political convenience of it all, for TechCrunch, should not be overlooked.
And to put it all into perspective, note the actions of film writer Scott Weinberg, who according to his Twitter, quit working for Moviefone over their attempts to soften TechCrunch’s coverage. “Effective immediately, I no longer work for @moviefone. Here’s why,” he tweeted, linking to Tsotsis’s blog entry. That’s really fighting The Man.
Arianna and Bill, Again: Speaking of The Man fighting, Arianna Huffington and Bill Keller are still going at it after Keller’s column about aggregation called HuffPo, and the whole internet really, thieves for not doing the same real reporting Keller oversees at the New York Times. But his argument had a lot of holes, some of which we pointed and laughed at, while a column by Arianna herself handled other off spots in Keller’s logic. In sort-of unrelated moves, Huffington also hired some ex-Times people, which probably felt good for her and stung Keller a bit.
But that’s not all! Last night on their media blog, The Huffington Post poked fun at Keller and co., who charged that HuffPo relies heavily on “adorable kitten videos,” by calling out the Times‘ request that readers send in videos of their pets for the Times health blog called Well.
Which reminds us! One time, in defending the blogging that the Times does feature, Times editor Jill Abramson said, “Times blogs are never personal diaries,” ignoring the fact that for a year, she wrote a blog called “The Puppy Diaries” for the New York Times website.
Also, as much as it pains us to be Team Huffington in this stupid skirmish, here’s a Times blog entry from last week called “My Dog, Myself.”
Free Journalism School: In a last bit of media news on the day, the Washington Post website accidentally published an unfinished story, complete with all of the editor’s notes to the writer. For a young journalist, this is a veritable goldmine!
At a time when learning to be a journalist usually means aggregating, like about Lindsay Lohan and shit, a line-edit from a practiced editor is like a goddamn unicorn. And these WaPo edits seem helpful too!
Kids, can you imagine that this used to happen for everything any writer did? I know, I know — always with the ALL CAPS. It sounds like they’re screaming at you, right? Really they’re just trying to make the story better. Seriously, spend some time with this, little ones. It’s intimidating, but it’s invaluable and all too rare.
So thank you, Washington Post editors and sloppy online producers. We hear journalism school is expensive.