CNET Reporter Resigns Over CBS Interference In Dish CES Award

from the editorial-independence dept

Last week, in writing about CBS’s unquestionably stupid decision to interfere with subsidiary CNET when it covered Dish’s new DVR device, all because CBS is involved in litigation against Dish over a similar device, I came very close to calling out reporter Greg Sandoval by name. Sandoval is an excellent reporter for CNET who has covered the Dish case in particular, along with numerous other copyright issues. I don’t always agree with him, but I think he’s a tough and fair reporter, and it seemed like CBS’s decision would put his objective reporting in doubt. Minutes before posting the article, I pulled the sentence that included Sandoval’s name, because I thought it was, perhaps, unfair to put him on the spot like that, and that each employee of CNET had to make a personal decision on how to handle the situation.

Now it appears that Sandoval has made his decision, announcing that he’s resigned from CNET due to this situation:

As he notes, he no longer has confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence. In later tweets, he notes that CBS never interfered with his own reporting, but that the situation was unacceptable and would lead others to call into question his own independence — especially considering that Sandoval reported on the Dish case and other similar cases.

This all comes out after further information on the story reveals that CBS didn’t just bar CNET staff from considering the new Dish device for the “Best of CES” award, but actually forced staffers to re-vote after the device had already won the award:

The Verge has now learned that the facts of the case are somewhat different than the story CNET and CBS had previously shared with the public. According to sources familiar with the matter, the Hopper was not simply an entrant in the Best of CES awards for the site: it was actually chosen as the winner of the “Best of Show” award (as voted by CNET’s editorial staff).

Apparently, executives at CBS learned that the Hopper would win “Best of Show” prior to the announcement. Before the winner was unveiled, CBS Interactive News senior-vice president and General Manager Mark Larkin informed CNET’s staff that the Hopper could not take the top award. The Hopper would have to be removed from consideration, and the editorial team had to re-vote and pick a new winner from the remaining choices. Sources say that Larkin was distraught while delivering the news — at one point in tears — as he told the team that he had fought CBS executives who had made the decision.

Apparently the move to strike the Hopper from the awards was passed down directly to Larkin from the office of CBS CEO, Leslie Moonves. Moonves has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Hopper, telling investors at one point, “Hopper cannot exist… if Hopper exists, we will not be in business with (Dish).”

The Verge report also notes that CNET/CBS Interactive folks fought hard against the decision from the top folks at CBS, but in the end were told they had no choice. While it’s not too surprising that folks from the old gatekeeper system, like Moonves, would be so clueless as to think that such a move would not massively backfire, it’s still stunning to see that he never appeared to think through the consequences.

Kudos to Sandoval for standing up for his principles. As a top reporter in the space, I have no doubt he’ll land on his feet — hopefully at a publication with more credibility. Let’s see if other CNET reporters follow suit.

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Companies: cbs, dish

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Comments on “CNET Reporter Resigns Over CBS Interference In Dish CES Award”

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Milton Freewater says:

Re: Let's see if other CNET reporters follow suit.

“Ethics in journalism is like honesty in politics.”

This story is about ethical journalists who voted to promote a device that might threaten their company’s revenues in the short term. So yeah, journalists can be unethical but these ones aren’t.

Moonves can’t get his head around what a CBS CEO’s job responsibilities should be in 2012, i.e. maximum revenue generation in the CURRENT climate, not the climate you prefer. Once fund managers and stockholders start seeing his attitude as a red flag, he’ll change his tune or they’ll find someone who will.

We talk about the next generation of lawmakers and judges being friendlier to communications innovations, and that’s important, but arguably even more important is the next generation of investors.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Let's see if other CNET reporters follow suit.

Let’s see if other CNET reporters follow suit.
Ethics in journalism is like honesty in politics.

Those two go together. My comment was directed at those who stay and keep their mouths shut and allow their names to be tarnished with further reviews where the reader will now always wonder if this is basically an infomercial. Because we now absolutely know, and should have always known, where there are corporate interests, honesty flies out the window for whATS PERCEIVED BY MANAGEMENT (sorry caps lock snafu) as best for the company. (While actually clueless as seen here. I will never trust a CNET review as 100% biased again.)

Its a prime example of what has happened to journalism in the US. At least by my perception.

“So yeah, journalists can be unethical but these ones aren’t.” – We will see.

DCL says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Let's see if other CNET reporters follow suit.

You just expanded my point… in today’s “get it out there as soon as possible” world we often take the easy way, like not always checking sources (add multiple TD article references here), which leads to outside groups perceiving an overall corruption of mainstream ethics(sometimes rightfully so).

That also expands to the “Suits” piercing the journalistic veil of independence for the shortsightedness of blocking a competitors product, later they will apologize (hopefully) and try to smooth things over.

Somebody with true integrity works to actively prevent corruption with every action the are responsible for. Hence Sandoval has come away with more integrity then the suits in this case.

My initial response was meant to be a bit tongue in cheek but I purposely used the word corollary to soften the correlation vs causation argument.

Personally when I type on a mobile device and I go back and fix my edits (the ones I notice) instead of just apologizing for them. I must be old skool.

Davey says:

When will we have more real journalists running the news and be rid of assholes like Moonves? These corporate leeches are good for nothing except screwing their customers and ruining innovation.

Hopefully 60 MInutes will be getting the story and helping drive Moonves to a home in a doorway where one of his intellect and integrity belong. Ooops, forgot: 60 Minutes is CBS, and so won’t be allowed to comment. Hopefully Mike Wallace, Cronkite, and the other real journalists from back when CBS wasn’t scum will find a way to wreak revenge.

Gregg says:

What's sad about this

What is sad about this, is really how little shocked people are about a big “media” corporation making it’s own news through a News subsidiary. We are all so used to corporations being corrupt and manipulating the truth to get their desired response that we lump them in with politicians, taking the lessor of two evils. It’s not that we ever really trusted big media or big corporations, but the “News” was always expected to be fair and clean. Over 20 years of Fox news and other BS, this just helps put the nail in the coffin.

CBS should have it’s executive board fired, fined and flogged.

Former CNet reader says:

C|Net CES connection

Kudos to Greg for doing what I think many would be too afraid or intimidated to do.

But, on an additional note… the bigger problem which I think many people may be unaware of is that C|Net is *THE* OFFICIAL awards partner of CES itself and has been for the last 11 or so years.

So in effect CBS has affirmed by this massive CF, that they now control CES’s ‘Best of’ award process and can simply deny a company from even being considered for an award simply because the suits may not like whatever product is being showcased.

Personally if I were Dish’s CEO, I’d be demanding that the CEA terminate that relationship immediately as the official awards process is now obviously biased and tainted!!

Seriously… who didn’t see this coming when a content company acquired a tech news company. The two fundamentally do not mix since big content/media have always reviled new technology – because it’s seen as a threat.

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