James Aylett: What Schonfeld should have written

Published at
Saturday 17th September, 2011

Hopefully signalling the end of the dithering over whether TechCrunch will remain an entertaining, bitchy and sometimes accurate tech biz gossip site (Heat for the lives of web companies) or begin its gradual slide into tedium and obscurity (The New York Times for…well, for pretty much anything), newly-minted Editor-in-Chief Erick Schonfeld last night publicly accepted Paul Carr’s equally public resignation. It won’t actually be the end of the story, but a standard has been set, on both sides, and with Arrington off worrying about all the things VCs worry about and Carr indulging himself as only the unemployed can, the story at least should have reached a point where the majority of us can just ignore it without undue effort.

But Schonfeld missed a trick in writing such a dry acceptance. Now is the time, after all, to establish the new voice of TechCrunch, which is inevitably going to be different; he could also be taking concrete steps to demonstrate his independence from Arianna OnLine. So here’s what he should have written.

Disclosure: I'm an investor in Paul Carr, in that I've sunk money in two of his past projects. Although I probably made it back by working on Diageo campaigns.

For the last couple of weeks people have painted me variously as evil or inept, a mastermind or a puppet. I’ve never really thought of myself as either, but clearly I have to make a choice. Okay, then: I’ll be evil.

Paul Carr, one of our columnists who was hired for his grandstanding ways and has recently joined the hoardes outside the gate who just don’t understand my evil vision, has decided to fall on his own sword and quit very publicly on TechCrunch. I’m sorry, Paul, but that’s not acceptable.

Paul’s resignation post reads like the brave stand of a man of principle, but the truth is that Paul doesn’t really know what he is talking about. Only the evil genius has principles, long developed as he apprenticed under others. Henchmen can only have loyalty. Of course Carr thinks he is somehow being loyal to Mike, but that’s pointless. You can only have loyalty to someone who is there: henchmen can’t retain loyalty to someone playing the golden harp. They don’t have the imagination.

Naturally there will be changes as I take over the reins and put all the minions back in their traces (for instance, I’m tightening the use of language throughout everything we do, starting with the title: we’re now just CRUNCH, all in capitals like any proper evil organisation). I tried to reach out to Paul and was hoping to have an honest conversation about his future at CRUNCH (probably in Department III). Instead, he blindsided me with his post by publishing it as I was laughing insanely while playing with my pet shark.

In any other organisation, Paul would have been dealt with long ago. And his post would be taken down. But I will let it stand. When Paul was hired, he was promised that he could write anything and it would not be censored, even if it was disparaging to TechCrunch. I will still honor that agreement. But obviously there are forms I have to go through: I’ve changed the locks at CRUNCHQ, I’ve told all the other henchmen (and women) that Paul is a potential trouble source, and that they should disconnect from him. Also, I don’t want to brag, but I called in a couple of favours and…well, let’s just say that Paul probably shouldn’t go anywhere near Reno for a few years.

I am also not going to get into all the details of what happened behind the scenes during the drama which unfolded in the past few weeks here. But I will say this: to suggest that Arianna appointed me editor single-handedly is untrue. It took me weeks of preparation, thousands of dollars in bribes, and the tactical seduction of a judge on the Second Circuit. There must have been at least six hands involved. Possibly seven if we include a clerk hitting the light switch at the wrong time.

So I think we’ll all just have to agree to disagree on that one. Paul, you may think your hard work under Mike entitled you to certain benefits such as the right to leave at a time of your chosing. But when one chief succeeds another…well, we all know what happens to those who speak up for the old regime. So in fact I don’t have to accept your resignation; that was just you publishing your exit interview. In fact, if you think back carefully to that time when you “decided” you wouldn’t stay if Mike’s wishes weren’t honoured…your Diet Coke tasted a bit funny that night, didn’t it Paul? And when you went to bed, was your head spinning with rage, or with something else? I was there, Paul. I was there.