Global CIO: On HP Vs. The Media, Michael Arrington Is Simply Wrong

Arrington says HP's board is 'bullying' the New York Times for its critical coverage, but I say bully for HP for defending itself.

Bob Evans, Contributor

October 13, 2010

6 Min Read

That's why new HP chairman Lane lashed out at Hurd in his public letter, saying Hurd "violated the trust of the board by repeatedly lying to them in the course of an investigation into his conduct" and that Hurd "violated numerous elements of HP's Standards of Business Conduct" and "demonstrated a serious lack of integrity and judgment." (End of excerpt.)

That's sure as heck tough talk, but it's hardly bullying—and it is surely not any attempt to bully the media.

Then there's Arrington's melodramatic and overwrought contention that "If you're press and you're criticizing H.P., watch out. They'll hit you back, and keep hitting until you're done."

Oh really now? If what Arrington says is true, then why is he daring to speak out against HP, knowing that the result will be that, in his own words, "They'll hit you back, and keep hitting until you're done"?

This is utter nonsense. This is the umpire pretending that 50,000 fans come to the ballpark to see him call balls and strikes. This is the frustrated fan who so desperately wants to be noticed that he jumps over the railing onto the field and runs around because he thinks that makes him a player.

It's also one of the reasons why so many people in this country distrust the media: we are all too often so full of ourselves, full of accusations, and full of self-righteousness that we don't understand or even recognize our hypocrisy that jumps to attention when somebody else says we might not have all the answers.

I have written some complimentary things about HP, and some scathing things about HP. Afterward, I've never felt threatened or pressured by HP, and not in my wildest fantasies would I assume that "They'll hit [me] back, and keep hitting until [I'm] done."

Now, maybe that's because no one reads what I write so HP doesn't even bother sending its beat-down squad out to silence me. Maybe, maybe not.

One last item from Arrington's post deserves mention: he describes a flap that's come up about a columnist for the New York Times who's recently written two intensely critical columns about HP's board. The second of those columns was a wicked attack on new HP CEO Leo Apotheker and is based on the columnist's contention that Apotheker, back when he was a top executive at SAP, had extensive knowledge of how an SAP subsidiary was illegally downloading archrival Oracle's software. The column also discusses Apotheker's role in the upcoming damages portion of Oracle's lawsuit against SAP for that downloading.

As it turns out, this columnist—Joe Nocera—who thrashed Apotheker for his transgressions against Oracle is in fact engaged to the director of communications for the law firm representing Oracle in that legal battle against SAP. But Nocera says he only learned about his fiancee's connection to Oracle after the column was written, and that he surely would not have written it had he known about his colossal conflict of interest.

What's Arrington's take on that humiliating predicament for the Times, which one could argue should be grounds for being fired? Does Arrington level at the columnist the same level of cynicism he so freely wields at HP? Not so much:

"Nocera's conflict of interest aside (this is the gotcha type of conflict, not something that likely had any real impact on what he wrote), one thing is clear," Arrington writes. "If you're press and you're criticizing H.P., watch out. They'll hit you back, and keep hitting until you're done."

Got it? Ray Lane defends the company whose board he chairs, and he's "bullying" the poor little sissies in the media. But some columnist trashes a guy who's a key figure in a high-profile lawsuit in which his fiancee's law firm represents the other side, well, that's simply "not something that likely had any real impact on what he wrote."

Arrington and his TechCrunch brand have become influential forces in the IT industry, and part of the proof is that AOL just acquired his company for a reported $25 million. So I take my hat off to him for his entrepreneurship and hard work and for the audience impact he's generated.

But I hope he takes a long hard look at what he wrote today about HP, because while it's wrong, it's not just wrong—it's also a disservice to his audiences and an embarrassment to his otherwise solid reputation.

RECOMMENDED READING: Global CIO: In Oracle Trial, HP Might Pay Higher Price Than SAP Global CIO: Are HP And SAP Perfect Match Or Train Wreck? Global CIO: An Open Letter To HP CEO Leo Apotheker Global CIO: SAP's Sweeping Turnaround: Exclusive Co-CEO Interview Global CIO: HP's $130-Billion Gamble Global CIO: Larry Ellison Puts HP In Crosshairs Via Slap At New CEO Global CIO: HP CEO Apotheker Has Deep Expertise But Checkered History Global CIO: An Open Letter To SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner Global CIO: SAP's Last Chance: It's The Customers, Stupid! Global CIO: IBM Turns Guns On Cisco With Acquisition Of Blade Network Global CIO: Oracle's Success Breeds Fear And Loathing At The New York Times Global CIO: SAP Promises Business Value Over Products: Can It Deliver? Global CIO: An Open Letter To HP CEO Leo Apotheker Global CIO: SAP Stunner: ERP Deal Boosts Customer Profit $100M Per Year Global CIO: Tibco Surges And CEO Flips Off IBM, Oracle, And SAP Global CIO: The Awesome Transformative Power Of The Apple iPad Global CIO: As HP And Oracle Brawl, IBM And SAP Snatch Customers Global CIO: SAP Confronts The Real-Time Culture Wars Global CIO: The CEO Of The Year Is SAP's Bill McDermott Global CIO: Who Is The Tech Sector's #1 Acquisition Target? Global CIO: Oracle Hammered By SAP For Stifling Customer Choice Global CIO: How SAP Is Leading The Mobile-Enterprise Revolution GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Bob Evans


Bob Evans is senior VP, communications, for Oracle Corp. He is a former InformationWeek editor.

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