AOL Fight! Moviefone Asks TechCrunch to Tone Down Snark After Summit Complains

Updated: Studio says “Source Code” post was “a little snarky,” asks movie site to intervene

(Updated, 5:56 p.m. PST)

Moviefone Editor-in-Chief Patricia Chui has responded to the TechCrunch controversy. Chui argues that the writer was never asked to change his story, the email was simply to relay Summit's concerns over a snarky piece about its upcoming film "Source Code."

"The reality of our situation is that, as a movies site, we work with movie studios every day, and it is in our best interests to stay on good terms with them. Staying on good terms with studios means that we will relay information if asked. It does not mean that we would ever force a writer or an editor to edit their work for the sake of a studio — or anyone else," Chui writes.

Earlier…

When AOL bought TechCrunch last year, some loyal readers of the popular, often-outspoken tech blog feared the site would get watered down by corporate ownership.

I can’t say I’ve monitored TechCrunch close enough to have an opinion, but if this post is any indication, they have not changed their tone too much.

A representative for Moviefone, which is also owned by AOL, sent an e-mail on Tuesday to TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis asking — rather politely — if she could tone down the snark in a recent item about “Source Code,” the upcoming Jake Gyllenhaal film. Apparently, Summit did not take too kindly to the TechCrunch post, which was written after Tsotsis attended a party for the film at the South By Southwest conference in Austin, and asked Moviefone to intervene.

“Apparently, the post was not enough of a blowjob for Summit,” Tsotsis wrote, “and they let it be known to the AOL person at Moviefone who hooked us up with them in the first place.”

TechCrunch then posted the Moviefone rep's e-mail:

Hey Alexia,

Hope you’re having a good time at SxSW and that it’s not been too crazy busy for you!

First wanted to thank you for covering Source Code/attending the party, etc. But also wanted to raise a concern that Summit had about the piece that ran. They felt it was a little snarky and wondered if any of the snark can be toned down? I wasn’t able to view the video interviews but I think their issue is just with some of the text. Let me know if you’re able to take another look at it and make any edits. I know of course that TechCrunch has its own voice and editorial standards, so if you have good reasons not to change anything that’s fine, I just need to get back to Summit with some sort of information. Let me know.

Thanks!

Tsotsis defended posting the e-mail because TechCrunch “made a loose promise that if [AOL] ever asked us if we could change our coverage in any way, that we’d immediately publish it. Moviefone is part of AOL, so here you go.”

Good for TechCrunch. Also, I don’t blame Moviefone here; rather, Summit, which apparently thought that an invite to a party was currency in exchange for a positive piece. Not how it works.

“Granted, it’s common for the press to trade access for positive coverage across all industries,” Tsotsis concluded, “but nowhere is it more prevalent than in the stratified environs of the movie and television industry.”