from the uh,-yeah dept
The fallout from CBS’s ridiculously short-sighted interference with CNET’s editorial process, concerning staffers awarding Dish’s new DVR “best of show” at CES, continues to cause problems. Whle one of CNET’s best reporters quit in protest, and Dish has turned the whole thing into a marketing opportunity, now any news article about any company that CBS is in a legal fight with has become suspect.
Note this recent article about the updated Aereo app. While it kicks off by saying that Aereo “just became a much more potent alternative to traditional cable TV” stuck right smack in the middle of the article is a big “disclosure”:
Disclosure: CBS, the parent corporation of CNET, is currently in active litigation with Aereo as to the legality of its service. As a result of that conflict of interest, CNET cannot review that service going forward.
In other words, “HEY EVERY BODY, YOU CAN’T TRUST US TO REPORT FAIRLY ON THIS BECAUSE OUR CORPORATE OVERLORDS INTERFERE WITH EDITORIAL!” The whole thing is a joke. As Rob Pegoraro correctly noted, CNET’s claims that “news” reporting won’t be impacted because these bans just apply to “reviews” is simply wrong, wrong, wrong.
To say that there’s “actual news” and then reviews devoid of news value shows a basic misunderstanding of how journalism works.
Hard-news stories (like search-engine results!) are never entirely objective; people made value judgments in assigning them, choosing sources to quote, and giving those pieces their spot on the page or in the paper. Reviews are never entirely subjective and ought to cite objective defects such as slow performance, poor battery life, privacy risks or missing features.
And in the evolving and sometimes fumbling tech industry, assessing the hardware, software and services it serves up is an especially important part of the work of journalism. We need to suffer through these products ourselves–unless you’d prefer that we waited to see you find their problems, then reported the controversy.
Readers, in turn, don’t view news and reviews as distinct entities. If they start seeing one part of a site’s work subject to a corporate overlord’s remote control, they will read everything there skeptically. If they stick around at all.
Indeed. All that disclaimer does is remind people that CNET’s coverage of any such topic is not to be trusted at all.
Update: And… things are apparently going downhill. According to reports and internal notes, reporters at CNET are pissed off and morale is falling. There was a meeting where some believed CBS was going to go back on its position, but the company did not. Reporters have been pushing back, but to no avail. The Romenesko link here includes an email from CNET reporter Declan McCullagh ticking off example after example of publications associated with other companies suing Aereo giving perfectly normal reviews of the product:
The Wall Street Journal’s Katie Boehret (who reviews products along with Walt Mossberg, as I’m sure you know) reviewed Aereo three months after the litigation began. Boehret concluded: “It has a thoughtful, clean user interface that works well on the iPad, where I tested it most.. If you’re a fan of TV and want a better way to watch it on the go, Aereo is a pleasure.” The WSJ is owned by News Corp., which is in active litigation with Aereo.
ABCNews.com published a review of Aereo this month. It said: “I’ve been trying out Aereo since September to record and watch all sorts of programs on Aereo — both highbrow shows such as ‘Downton Abbey’ and guilty-pleasure ones such as ‘Revenge…’ It makes cutting cable service tempting.” ABC News is owned by Walt Disney, which is in active litigation with Aereo.
The Chicago Tribune published a syndicated review of streaming services including Aereo, which said “the most exciting development might be a scrappy start-up called Aereo that lets you watch TV on any Web-connected device with a screen via a network of miniaturized antennas.” The newspaper is owned by the Tribune Company, which is in active litigation with Aereo.
It’s true that CBS has the right to set the editorial policies that CNET journalists must abide by. And it’s also true that this policy is prominently disclosed to our readers. But I’m not aware of other media companies that have enacted a similar policy.
This has the makings of quite the business school and journalism school case study…