Technology reviews by website CNET have long been respected for their thoroughness and integrity, but that reputation has come under scrutiny after a top reporter quit over what he says is editorial interference by its parent company, CBS Corp.
The dispute centers on CNET’s choice of best gadgets from last week’s International CES show in Las Vegas.
CNET voted Dish Network Corp.’s “Hopper with Sling” the best home theater and audio product. Because CBS is in a legal fight with Dish over the Hopper’s ad-skipping capabilities, CBS vetoed the selection, saying the product couldn’t be considered “Best of CES.” Instead, CNET’s official selection was a sound bar from TV maker Vizio.
Reporter Greg Sandoval tweeted on Monday morning that he was resigning, saying he had lost confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence.
“I just want to be known as an honest reporter,” he tweeted, adding “CNET wasn’t honest about what occurred regarding Dish.”
In an apparent response to the resignation, CNET Reviews Editor-in-Chief Lindsey Turrentine posted a story on the site a few hours after Sandoval’s tweet saying that around 40 CNET editorial members voted, and Dish’s Hopper won the designation because of “innovative features that push shows recorded on DVR to iPads.”
She said “the conflict of interest was real” and said she contemplated quitting as well, but stayed on to explain the situation to staff and prevent a recurrence. She said CNET staff was asked to re-vote after the Hopper was excluded, and regretted not revealing at first that it had won.
“I wish I could have overridden the decision not to reveal that Dish had won the vote,” she wrote. “For that I apologize to my staff and to CNET readers.”
A spokesman for CBS, which also owns such marquee journalism properties as CBS News and 60 Minutes, declined to comment on how a similar situation might be handled if it occurred at its other news properties.
“In terms of covering actual news, CNET maintains 100 percent editorial independence, and always will,” CBS said in a prepared statement.
CBS bought CNET for $1.8 billion in June 2008. In December, the site had 33.4 million visitors, up 8 percent from a year earlier.