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TechCrunch editor-in-chief Mike Arrington may be on the verge of dismissal by his superior, Arianna Huffington (pictured) - if he hasn't been laid off already. Matt Rourke/AP

Techcrunch writer warns of 'the end' if AOL fires its influential editor

In an unusually blunt piece, a senior writer says AOL are on the verge of sacking the site’s influential editor Mike Arrington.

A SENIOR WRITER at the popular technology industry blog TechCrunch has posted a wide-ranging attack on the site’s owner, AOL, over fears that it may be on the verge of sacking its founder and editor-in-chief – if it hasn’t already done so.

Mike Arrington, who founded the site in 2005, sold the site to AOL in September of last year – and last week announced a new $20m venture capital fund, called the ‘CrunchFund’, which would see him investing in digital startups. AOL had approved the fund and invested $10m in it.

While Arrington had insisted that his fund would not compromise the journalistic integrity of his site, media reports on the fund nonetheless prompted AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong to comment that TechCrunch had a ‘different understanding of journalism’ to other sites.

TechCrunch responded angrily, with columnist Paul Carr criticising Armstrong for failing to point out that the CrunchFund was a personal project of Arrington’s and was entirely divorced from TechCrunch itself.

The dispute has evidently led to a major falling out between AOL and the TechCrunch team, with senior writer MG Siegler this morning posting a lengthy entry saying that the site was “on the precipice” and that Arrington was on the verge of being “thrown out” of his own site.

While the site would “probably” be able to survive without him, Siegler said, it would simply “not be the same” – arguing that the introduction of a new Editor-in-Chief would be a “colossal fucking mistake”:

If AOL throws out Mike and tries to install their own despot, it will be breaking it just so they can fix it. And they may not like the end result.

AOL had originally said on Thursday that it would allow Arrington to remain involved with TechCrunch – explaining that it was making an exception to its usual policy about barring staff from investing in companies they reported on.

By Friday, however, AOL had told the New York Times that Arrington was no longer an employee – with an executive telling its Bits blog that the AOL Huffington Post Media Group had been pushing ‘for months’ to have Arrington removed as an editor.

Arrington had reportedly signed a three-year deal to remain with TechCrunch after AOL bought the site last September, though it is believed that the climate within AOL’s digital operations changed significantly after it bought the Huffington Post in February.

That $315m takeover saw Arianna Huffington become the main overseer of AOL’s entire digital publishing portfolio – making her Arrington’s direct superior.

Read: Blogger mounts $105m legal action against Huffington Post and AOL

More: AOL to cut hundreds of jobs following HuffPo buyout

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