I've been following the Engadget/TechCrunch/Michael Arrington war of words since it exploded last week on Silicon Alley Insider. If you haven't been keeping an eye on the story, basically Arrington, founder of TechCrunch which is now owned by AOL, went on the verbal attack against Engadget (also AOL-owned) and its editor Joshua Topolosky via industry blogs and Twitter. This would be akin to Matt Lauer starting a fight with Meredith Viera during a live broadcast of the Today Show.
Arrington's reasons for going on the offensive against Engadget appear dubious and personal. In addition, his actions bring a tremendous amount of negative press to his parent company. Which leads me to question - what is the obligation of AOL leadership to step in and manage the situation? It appears that they've taken a hands-off approach, risking further damage to a company that has seen more than its fair share of critical news coverage. The longer AOL leadership chooses to not take steps to bring things under control, the more they will appear ineffective and out of touch. When an employee's actions spill beyond company walls, that company has to step in to prevent the situation from spinning out of control and inflicting long-term damage. It's not just about upholding standards of behavior for employees but also to protect the company.