What’s Arrington’s New Role at TechCrunch? AOL Can’t Get Its Story Straight

After tech blogger extraordinaire Michael Arrington announced yesterday that he launched a new venture fund, the blogosphere exploded with questions about conflict of interest.

Specifically, how could Arrington remain editor of TechCrunch and write impartially about companies that he had backed with his new $20 million CrunchFund? AOL CEO Tim Armstrong initially dismissed the concern, saying Arrington would continue writing for TC and invest for CrunchFund, in which AOL is a limited partner. Then AOL backtracked, offering multiple versions of what Arrington’s new role would be.

The following slideshow illustrates how the story has evolved in the past two days.

[slideshow]

[slide title=”Story No. 1: Arrington will continue to write for TechCrunch while he makes investments for CrunchFund”]

Time: Sept. 1
Story teller: AOL CEO Tim Armstrong

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong tells the New York Times Arrington will continue writing for TechCrunch, but the site will name a new managing editor. Also, Arrington will continue to report to Arianna Huffington, head of AOL’s media business.

Armstrong to NYT: “TechCrunch is a different property and they have different standards. … We have a traditional understanding of journalism with the exception of TechCrunch, which is different but is transparent about it.”

[slide title=”Story No. 2: Arrington no longer works for TechCrunch, but he has a “relationship” with AOL Ventures”]
Time: 8:12 a.m., Sept. 2
Story teller: Arianna Huffington, president of AOL Huffington Post Media Group

Business Insider reports: “Mr. Arrington is not being paid by TechCrunch, he does not report to TechCrunch editors, and he does not report to Arianna Huffington or other AOL Huffington Post Media Group personnel, Ms. Huffington adds in an email to Business Insider.”

Huffington goes on to say that Arrington now has a “relationship” with AOL Ventures, which is an investor in CrunchFund.

Arrington can contribute to TechCrunch, but he will not be paid for his contributions and anything he writes must abide by AOL’s blogging guidelines, Huffington tells Business Insider.

[slide title=”Story No. 3: Arrington is no longer an AOL employee”]
Time: 9:51 a.m., Sept. 2
Story teller: Mario Ruiz, spokesman for AOL Huffington Post

Ruiz tells Business Insider Arrington is “not employed by AOL.”

(Photo of Ruiz not available.)
[slide title=”Story No. 4: Yes, Arrington still works for AOL, but he’s with AOL Ventures”]
Time: 12:40 p.m., Sept. 2
Story teller: Maureen Sullivan, SVP of Corporate Communications and Marketing for AOL

AOL spokeswoman Maureen Sullivan tells the New York Times: “Michael’s role has changed. He now works within AOL Ventures. He’s becoming a professional investor. He is no longer involved in editorial.”

[slide title=”Story No. 5: Uh, Arrington isn’t sure what his new role is”]
Time: 12:40 p.m., Sept. 2
Story teller: Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch and co-founder of CrunchFund venture capital fund

Asked by the New York Times about the confusion over his new role, Arrington says: “I have no idea what AOL’s final position on this will be. I look forward to hearing it. I’ll respond once Arianna has made her last statement.”

[/slideshow]