Arr-ptui! TechCrunch head splits after spit

A lot of tech journalists will tell you that unpleasant reader interactions -- everything from incoherent hate mail to death threats -- are an occasional part of the job. But Michael Arrington, leader of TechCrunch, has always modeled himself as a remarkable specimen of tech journalist, and so he's taking an entire month off after getting spit on at a conference yesterday.

In a post to his site, Arrington describes the interaction with the unknown man. "The last thing I wanted was another product pitch as I hurried to the car that would drive me to Davos for the next event. So when I saw this person approach me out of the corner of my eye, I turned away slightly and avoided eye contact. Sometimes that works. But in this case all it did was make me vulnerable to the last thing I expected."

The post goes on at length, detailing Arrington's dismay with an industry that's isn't "much fun any more," and going into some detail about a death threat he received last summer. He says he'll finish up his Davos coverage, then take a few weeks off to regroup.

The death-threat incident sounds genuinely serious and, of course, completely unacceptable. (Arrington continued to work and post through that, as most threatened journalists do.) Alas, Arrington's reputation in certain quarters hasn't engendered a whole lot of the sympathy he requests in Wednesday's post.

There have been hints that Arrington's at least somewhat burned out -- on a post concerning a site closure on Monday (the day before the alleged spitting), he added a comment that "All I can say is that I now have a great template to use when we eventually shut down TechCrunch." Such hints may have led the Valleywag/Gawker blogger to note that Arrington's "hoped-for exit never happened -- and likely never will, now that the Web 2.0 bubble which TechCrunch was founded to chronicle has evaporated."

Twitter doyenne and Guardian tech writer JemimaKiss retweeted Arrington's own tweet with her comment added: "RT Mike Arrington: 'Somebody spit on me at DLD today.' Sounds like a request. Any takers?" (When told of the incident, more than a few of this writer's acquaintances suggested taking up a bucket and a collection. Shame, shame, shame on my acquaintances.) Other industry vets recall Arrington's storied abrasive behavior and fondness for incendiary statements -- he was doing exactly that at the DLD event whence came the saliva -- and noted that it may be more newsworthy that it was only happening in January 2009, and only spit.

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