Did TechCrunch screw a source?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007 by Dave Winer.
Nelson Minar says he likes TechCrunch, but they're not journalists so be careful what you say to a TC reporter at a party. He cites two examples where he feels they acted unethically.
In one example, the reporter seems to use off the record comments exactly as they are supposed to. Most non-disclosures require that you keep the information confidential, but only until someone else discloses the information to you. If you get it from another source, on the record or off the record, the NDA is no longer enforceable. In this case they got confirmation from three off the record sources.
The other is just an example of a dumb story, not a violation of journalistic ethics. To say that a big company told a lie is hardly news. If it were about something material and not the age of one of the founders, then it would be newsworthy. But it's not an example of an integrity breach. (You can make a mistake and still have integrity. It's only a problem if you knew it was wrong when you wrote it.)
Imho, too much is made of whether someone is a journalist or not. You read reports like this one from a high reputation news organization, written by a journalist, that contain no information but leave a sensational impression for people who don't know technology well enough to know that the reporter is talking nonsense. I'd rather read the opinion of a non-journalist who knows the subject and can defend his or her position, and clearly discloses their interest in the subject. At least I'd learn something, and no one would be misled into believing they were getting "news."
However I do applaud what Nelson wrote because he had the guts to openly criticize TechCrunch. People from outside Silicon Valley must wonder why hardly anyone does, given that they are at or near the top of most lists ranking tech news sources. Why should they be immune to examination? Answer -- they shouldn't.