Betabeat | Massive Greatness
Thursday, Instapaper and Tumblr developer Marco Arment was on Twitter, naming and shaming news outlets he said rewrote his blog post about corrupt updates to apps in Apple’s App Store. In chimed TechCrunch columnist MG Siegler:
@marcoarment I used to love to plant one really weird bit of random information (sometimes even false) into stories to catch the rewrites.
— MG Siegler (@parislemon) July 5, 2012
A treasured voice in tech reporting admitting to fabricating information? It sounded like a story to Betabeat’s Adrianne Jeffries, who tried to report out Siegler’s tweet.
Siegler didn’t answer immediately, nor did former TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld or current co-editor Alexia Tsotsis. Paul Carr, a former TechCrunch writer, told Jeffries if Siegler was telling the truth about lying, he was referring to fairly minor incidents. An AOL spokesperson declined to comment but pointed Jeffries to the Web giant’s terms of service, which say its editorial products are “For general information, discussion, and entertainment purposes only.” Other tech bloggers told Jeffries they didn’t love the idea. “Planting false info in stories to catch non-linkers? Both unethical and pathetically petty,” AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher told Jeffries.
In a late-night response, accompanied by a bottle of wine (what is it with TechCrunch writers and such circumstances?) Siegler torched Jeffries for choosing lousy sources to ask for comment, publishing without waiting for comment from more relevant sources, and the very idea of the post at all. He cited one time he says AllThingsD got burned on a story he claims it wrote off one of his posts:
I didn’t plant false information. I simply left out information (which I knew, but didn’t think was particularly important) and watched as the rewritten version ate shit while trying to fill in the blanks.
And then he yanked the curtain back for a dramatic reveal:
But those paying attention will notice that I haven’t actually answered the implied question left by the incomplete and irresponsible Betabeat post. Did I actually plant fake information on TechCrunch or elsewhere to catch asshats in action?
Get ready for the real mindfuck: what if it was my tweet that was filled with false information in order to expose bullshit bloggers who have nothing better to do than write about nothing with absolutely no basis for doing so?
I’m not as thrilled by this masterstroke as he appears to be. Siegler’s “a-ha!” moment says he may have deceived people about lying, leaving us with two possibilities: That he’s lied in his journalism or he’s lied when describing his journalism. Or maybe now he’s misdirecting us with a dastardly “what if” while describing his description of his journalism. Whatever happened, this non tech-blogger is having some trouble seeing how this affair redounds to his benefit.