This is in response to the TechCrunch article: An Apology To Our Readers. If you haven't read it, I suggest that you read it. I've only quoted a bit of it below, and it'll make much more sense if you read the article in its entirety.
On Monday evening I received a phone call from someone I trust who told me that one of our interns had asked for compensation in exchange for a blog post. Specifically, this intern had allegedly asked for a Macbook Air in exchange for a post about a startup.
After an investigation we determined that the allegation was true. In fact, on at least one other occasion this intern was almost certainly given a computer in exchange for a post.
The intern in question has admitted to some of the allegations, and has denied others. We suspended this person while we were sorting through exactly what happened. When it became clear yesterday that there was no question that this person had requested, and in one case taken, compensation for a post, the intern was terminated.
First off, I am not posting the name of the person here because I do not think it's relevant to what I'm going to say. If you would like to find out, it should be pretty clear by the comments of the quoted article which can be found here. I do not know this person personally, but do know many people who are close to him/her. I'm going to break this post up into three parts: what I think about TechCrunch's actions, the behavior of the said person, and my personal opinion of the effect on teens involved in technology as a whole. I am not an ombudsman or claim to have any authority on this issue, but feel that what I have to say is relevant and would love to hear your input as well. Here I go; sorry for the long preface.
TechCrunch's actions - I believe that TechCrunch (TC) in this case has done what any credible news outlet would have done and was legally required of them. I do believe that TC has increasingly become an outlet of news that I question on it's journalistic objectivity. I have seen posts reviewing products that may or may not have been influenced by an outside source. This irks me: I have even gone as far as to poll my friends' thoughts. All in all, I do not believe in good conscience could they have kept this quiet nor could they have kept the employee. It is important that they keep their journalistic integrity and I applaud them for that. They also omitted the person's name--which I believe was a legal issue, but was what I would have done regardless.
The actions in question - It was stupid. Really, really, stupid. And If I ever do that, please shoot me first. Yet, how many of you have honestly never done a really stupid thing in your youth? None, if you haven't you haven't lived, or more likely, are lying. I think the visual picture most of you are getting are of the said person demanding a bribe--that's what was--in return for a positive review. Magazines do it all the time with their advertisers, but journalists should be unencumbered and objective. Journalists should disclose all connections with companies they review and avoid reviewing them if they can not be completely unbiased. I know that is a pretty high standard and I expect bloggers to adhere to it too. Now is a good time to say that I own shares in Apple, Fannie Mae, and Cisco--I'll post that disclosure prominently on my blog later, and on every post regarding those three companies.
The truth of the matter is that he/she is 17 years old. As a friend said, "[said person] has so much power, yet so little power:" a writer at a respected blog with a wide audience yet being the lowest on the totem pole there. I'm not sure if he came up with the idea him/herself, but it was likely a situation of him/her testing their power. I might have even been half-jokingly and he/she will regret it for a long time. I don't think it was a huge financial incentive--I can say that on several good sources. This person does not need a Macbook Air and could afford to buy many of them if they wanted.
The effect on teens and credibility of teens as a whole - I believe that this is probably the most relevant part. As a teen, I can say that many adults don't take you seriously already and after incidents like this, why should they? I truly believe that people learn more from their mistakes and failures than their successes. The person in question has had much success in the past yet might not have reached any limits and kept going. I admire that, just not in this case. I am very much a believer in what many people have told me and which is quoted on one of my favorite t-shirts:
There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. — Bruce Lee (1940-1973)
The realist in me says that it's important to be prepared with the tools of success and those tools are gained through struggles and failures. I can only hope that this person has gained some "tools" from this experience. I hope that we can all learn from this experience and never repeat it. As my ex-theater teacher says:
"If you're going to make a mistake, be the first one to do it." - Phillip Rayher, Actor, Director, Teacher.
To all the adults out there, please don't let this one transgression affect your entire outlook on today's youth, and we won't let your continuing transgressions define you.
Thank you for reading this, and I will post an update as soon as there is a response to the article by the subject.
Update (1:40am February 5, 2010): I just read Daniel's response. I am glad that he came out with it. It shows his professionalism. It is still yet to be seen if we have learned as a whole from this experience, but I respect him for his achievements and hope that good things continue to come his way - in college and in life. As I am going through that process as well. It is very much a learning stage for him. As for the whole story, I'm not sure if we'll ever know - just like the CrunchPadJoojoo. I would love to hear everyone's opinion about this and how you think I covered the story.