It's been a fun week if future-of-news melodrama is your cup of tea. While it may turn out that Michael Arrington is gone (subhead: "For Real, This Time"), it's worth returning to the question of conflict of interest and journalistic ethics that the incident raised. Earlier this week, MG Siegler lionized TechCrunch's methods, suggesting that TechCrunch's fast and loose posting style which shifts accountability from editors down to individual journalists is the future of news.
Alexis correctly points out that there a lot of prior art for this style of journalism, it's called the trade press. TechCrunch isn't mainstream journalism, it's a specialist press outlet that covers an industry to which millions of people think they belong.
I want to pause for a moment and consider the first instance of specialist press that I ever encountered: video gaming magazines.
The conflicts inherent in gaming journalism are well documented. Historically, the main advertisers in gaming mags and on gaming sites have been game publishers. The output of the gaming press consists of a pretty even mix of reviews of currently available titles and exclusive first looks at upcoming titles. The gaming press relies on good relations with publishers and developers for access to preview material. Rumours of bought review scores abound, but you'll find no starker evidence of the subtle corrupting influence of this situation than in the fact that gaming has a different Metacritic scale from all other media.