by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 1st 2013 2:29pm
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 15th 2013 2:33pm
from the a-bit-slow-out-the-gate dept
After the vote, we communicated the winners, as we always do, through normal channels. CNET immediately got down to the business of preparing for a massive stage show the following morning and preparing a press release.Of course, this is only coming out well after tons of other sources had reported on this -- and upstart competitor the Verge had already broken the story about how CBS didn't just tell CNET not to vote on the Dish device, but made them rescind the award that had already been chosen.
Later that evening, we were alerted to the legal conflict for CBS. All night and through to morning, my managers up and down CNET and I fought for two things: To honor the original vote and -- when it became clear that CBS Corporate did not accept that answer -- to issue a transparent statement regarding the original vote.
Ultimately, we were told that we must use the official statement and that we must follow corporate policy to defer all press requests to corporate communications.
The CNET post, by reviews Editor in Chief Lindsey Turrentine, suggests that most of the staff had no idea that CBS was in litigation with Dish and they were just doing what they were supposed to do. She also pushes back against the idea that she should resign:
We were in an impossible situation as journalists. The conflict of interest was real -- a legal case can impact the bottom line of our company and introduce the possibility of bias -- but the circumstances demanded more transparency and not hurried policy.The thing is, if she had quit, I would bet that many on her team would not have seen it as being abandoned, but actually as real leadership of someone supporting their editorial independence.
I could have quit right then. Maybe I should have. I decided that the best thing for my team was to get through the day as best we could and to fight the fight from the other side. Every single member of the CNET Reviews team is a dedicated, ethical, passionate technology critic. If I abandoned them now, I would be abandoning the ship.
She then goes on to insist that she'll fight to make sure this doesn't happen again -- but that seems difficult to believe since earlier in the existing story it suggests that she and others gave up the fight when CBS told them what they had to do:
If I had to face this dilemma again, I would not quit. I stand by my team and the years of work they have put into making CNET what it is. But I wish I could have overridden the decision not to reveal that Dish had won the vote in the trailer. For that I apologize to my staff and to CNET readers.Of course, the decision to quit is one that every individual has to make themselves. But completely taking it out of the realm of possibility gives CBS the easy power to do this again and again and again. She's signalling to CBS that it can continue to walk over CNET's editorial independence, and while the editor-in-chief may protest loudly, in the end, she won't leave. That's only going to add to the cloud over CNET's reviews going forward.
The one thing I want to clearly communicate to my team and to everyone at CNET and beyond is this: CNET does excellent work. Its family of writers is unbiased, focused, bright, and true. CNET will continue to do excellent good work. Of that I am certain. Going forward, I will do everything within my power to prevent this situation from happening again.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 23rd 2012 3:39pm
from the the-system-is-broken dept
At a recent ICANN meeting, however, outgoing ICANN boss Rod Beckstrom (who we had hoped would clean up ICANN back when he took the job) blasted his own organization for the massive conflicts of interest that have made the organization almost entirely ineffectual when it comes to doing anything for the public's benefit.
"I believe it is time to further tighten up the rules that have allowed perceived conflicts to exist within our board," Mr. Beckstrom said in a speech during an Icann meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, last week. "This is necessary, not just to be responsive to the growing chorus of criticism about Icann's ethics environment, but to ensure that absolute dedication to the public good supersedes all other priorities."In fact, it looks like the conflicts are even worse than originally discussed, with a significant number of top people being closely tied to registrars directly, such that their positions are heavily influenced by what makes registrars the most money rather than what's best for the public or the internet as a whole. Isn't it time to just start over again from scratch, rather than letting this farce continue?
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 12th 2010 3:06pm
from the pot,-kettle dept
The deaths, the images of oil-soaked birds, and the enormous environmental and economic tragedy they symbolize, are deeply painful. For people above a certain age, they likely trigger traumatic memories of another gigantic and horrifying oil spill, when the captain and crew of the Exxon Valdez tanker crashed in waters off Alaska and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the ocean.However, he then notes that the very same Atlantic article which mocks Digg for taking money from BP... happens to have been sponsored by Exxon:
At times, we've had the same sort of debate here. Do we take advertising money from companies we disagree with over certain things? There's one argument that says that you should never agree to allow advertising from a company you disagree with. The flip-side might be that if a company you don't like wants to give it's money to you, perhaps you can put their money to much better use. In the end, I tend to view it in the same manner as I view censorship of unpopular speech: I'd rather let everything be out in the open, clearly stated, rather than trying to suppress views.
When I was in Germany recently, speaking at an event, a German guy in the audience got up and read aloud a comment on Techdirt that said less-than-nice things about Germans, and demanded to know why I had not deleted the comment (noting that, under German law, I was legally responsible for those comments). Beyond the ridiculousness of German law that puts the liability on third parties for others' speech, I noted that free speech means allowing free speech for all -- and if that includes ignorant speech, it's better to let that ignorance out into the open where it can be countered and responded to, rather than trying to hide it and delete it. I said that blocking or simply deleting such speech only reinforces the ideas of those who make such speech that they're saying something so "truthful" the world can't bear to hear it. I don't think that pushes the conversation forward.
Now, obviously, advertising is not the same kind of "speech" as discussed in the paragraph above, but there is something to be said for allowing companies to advertise in an open manner, and allowing the discussion to then occur, even about that advertising -- something Digg tends to encourage openly. It's been said that the best response to speech you don't like isn't censorship, but more speech -- and I would argue that applies to advertising as well. Now, I'm sure some will cynically say that, of course anyone who accepts advertising will want to accept whatever ads they can to make money. But I think that sites like Digg, which have been pretty careful not to go down the road of really annoying advertising, show that they won't just do anything for money.
Plenty of newspapers who covered the BP oil spill -- including the NY Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal -- all accepted advertising from BP in the wake of the spill. I didn't see any sanctimonious articles condemning any of them for doing so. It may be tempting, at a gut level, to suggest this is somehow "wrong," but I think I'd rather BP was out there trying to talk to people -- and letting the people talk back -- than being told it can't spend its money that way at all.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 8th 2010 7:03pm
from the bias?-ethics? dept
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Oct 21st 2009 8:34am
from the feeling-healthy-yet? dept
Or consider Dr. Alan F. Schatzberg, chair of Stanford's psychiatry department and president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association. Senator Grassley found that Schatzberg controlled more than $6 million worth of stock in Corcept Therapeutics, a company he cofounded that is testing mifepristone--the abortion drug otherwise known as RU-486--as a treatment for psychotic depression. At the same time, Schatzberg was the principal investigator on a National Institute of Mental Health grant that included research on mifepristone for this use and he was coauthor of three papers on the subject.Angell notes that this is pretty common:
Indeed, most doctors take money or gifts from drug companies in one way or another. Many are paid consultants, speakers at company-sponsored meetings, ghost-authors of papers written by drug companies or their agents, and ostensible "researchers" whose contribution often consists merely of putting their patients on a drug and transmitting some token information to the company.And as the relationship between doctors and pharma has gotten deeper and deeper, it means that the results of those all important "clinical trials" -- which the pharma supporters always insist are so important -- are highly suspect:
Because drug companies insist as a condition of providing funding that they be intimately involved in all aspects of the research they sponsor, they can easily introduce bias in order to make their drugs look better and safer than they are. Before the 1980s, they generally gave faculty investigators total responsibility for the conduct of the work, but now company employees or their agents often design the studies, perform the analysis, write the papers, and decide whether and in what form to publish the results. Sometimes the medical faculty who serve as investigators are little more than hired hands, supplying patients and collecting data according to instructions from the company.And yet the FTC is more worried about a mommy blogger recommending a book that a publisher sent her for free?
In view of this control and the conflicts of interest that permeate the enterprise, it is not surprising that industry-sponsored trials published in medical journals consistently favor sponsors' drugs--largely because negative results are not published, positive results are repeatedly published in slightly different forms, and a positive spin is put on even negative results. A review of seventy-four clinical trials of antidepressants, for example, found that thirty-seven of thirty-eight positive studies were published. But of the thirty-six negative studies, thirty-three were either not published or published in a form that conveyed a positive outcome. It is not unusual for a published paper to shift the focus from the drug's intended effect to a secondary effect that seems more favorable.