Arrington and Siegler point out that when they wrote about Path
they noted their connection to it. But is that full enough disclosure? I
a company like Path have companies that are rivals and companies
that are strategic partners or potential partners--so isn't there a
interest when Arrington and Siegler write about those? And if
you add up all the rivals and partners of all the companies in
aren't you talking about a lot of companies? How are readers
supposed to know enough about these relationships to know when they
should take the
writing of Arrington and Siegler with a grain of salt?
I can imagine a couple of replies:
1) Now that anyone can have a platform--Twitter, Tumblr,
comments sections, whatever--there can be hordes of skeptics combing the
writing of Arrington
and Siegler, and the list of CrunchFund investments, and bringing conflicts of interest to light. All you
need is transparency and a bunch of people with too much time on their
hands. (Arrington, in particular, sees transparency as the solution.)
2) You shouldn't think of a blogger as a "journalist" who is
supposed to comply with some professional code of ethics.
Bloggers can be politicians, entrepreneurs, and various other
kinds of people who are part of the game they're covering. In fact, one
of the best known
tech bloggers, Fred Wilson, is a venture capitalist whose full
disclosure is in his blog's title: AVC. But because he was a VC before
he was a blogger,
nobody complains about him having lost his journalistic integrity!
However satisfactory you think these answers are or aren't, I suspect
they're the answers of the future. If so, the future will dovetail with
the recent past.
For the last few decades it seems that traditional beliefs about the
human obligation to truth and the human capacity for objectivity have
been giving way
to the assumption that everyone has an agenda and it's up to the
audience to figure it out. I'm not sure to what extent, if any, this
change has been
driven by the fact that technologies have been making it easier to discern the agendas--or, at least, to discern the web of affiliations that might suggest an agenda.
Maybe it's just a happy coincidence.
[Postscript: Shortly before posting this I came across an exchange between Lyons and Scoble over whether Lyons had overstated Scoble's role in trying to start a new investment fund. In any event, the way I've put it in my post--that Scoble had been "exploring possible participation" in an investment fund--would, so far as I can tell, meet with Scoble's approval. And here, btw, are Siegler's and Arrington's original replies to Lyons.]