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TechCrunch's Michael Arrington fired by AOL?

The founder of the tech blog, who ignited a furious debate last week when he announced he was forming a venture fund to invest in some of the companies his bloggers cover, is out at AOL, Fortune reports.

TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington
TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington

AOL executives have decided to terminate embattled tech blogger Michael Arrington's employment with the company, according to a Fortune report.

Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, ignited a firestorm of debate during the past week after it was announced Thursday that he was forming a venture capital fund to invest in some of the startups he and his bloggers write about. The investors in Arrington's $20 million CrunchFund reportedly include AOL, which bought TechCrunch last year.

AOL and Arrington did not respond to requests for comment.

A journalist writing about companies he or she has a financial interest in flies in the face of traditional journalism's principles of avoiding conflicts of interest, and most media companies have rules prohibiting editors and reporters from investing in the companies they cover.

The New York Times' David Carr, in a story headlined A Tech Blogger Who Leaps Over the Line, said "the idea of a news site that covers every aspect of nascent tech companies sharing a brand name and founder with a venture capital firm financing these same companies seems almost comically over the line."

However, Arrington had previously insisted that the fund's activities would not influence TechCrunch's coverage and that he would disclose his investments on the site and in stories.

"I don't claim to be a journalist," Arrington told the newspaper. "I hold myself to higher standards of transparency and disclosure."

In the face of growing criticism, AOL announced later Thursday that Arrington had resigned his duties as managing editor of TechCrunch and "will continue to write for TechCrunch, but will have no editorial oversight." Erick Schonfeld will serve as interim editor while the company searches for a replacement.

TechCrunch reporter MG Siegler wrote in a post yesterday that he had a "really bad feeling" about Arrington's employment situation at AOL. "TechCrunch is on the precipice. As soon as tomorrow, Mike may be thrown out of the company he founded," Siegler wrote. "Or he may not. No one knows."