After being stalked by a felon with a gun, and then being spat on by an angry reader, Michael Arrington announced this morning that he was taking a break from TechCrunch, only to have John Cook post a reaction just before lunch concluding that this kind of abuse “comes with the territory.” Journalists, he observes, die all the time — 41 in 2008 alone.
Yes, many journalists risk life and limb speaking truth to power, or bearing witness to wars and poverty; those people are saints of an entirely different order than we are likely to encounter in the startup world.
But few have offered, as Michael has, their living rooms to entrepreneurs needing to save money while traveling, or published their email address so anyone with a good idea can approach them about it. Newsrooms are fortresses for a reason — and newspapers, however much I may love them, reflect that difference.
Beyond the risks Michael faces personally, the great experiment in openness and community that TechCrunch began a few years ago is what’s at stake now, and John seems not to have noticed that.
Would a journalist or blogger organize an ad hoc Collins’ meetup via Twitter, as John has, without the sense of community that TechCrunch has helped to create? Can TechCrunch continue to operate the way it has, as a member of the startup community — and not just a judge — when it has been attacked in this way?
Communities can be strong or they can, at moments like this, fall apart. Now is a time to be strong. What happened to Mike is not par for the course, it does not come with the territory, it is not business as usual, it is not something that Mike somehow, through his popularity, brought on himself.
It is a predator in our garden — this small, happy place where we can finally, really talk to one another – and it can ruin everything we’ve built — the trust, the openness, the joy in ideas — over the past few years. The only reaction one can have to someone’s being spit on and stalked is to deplore it in strong, unambiguous language.
Whatever John’s post may have said on the topic it fell far short of that.