1-15-2013Can We Trust CNET Again After a Scandal This Shady?
CNET, one of the Internet's first and most influential authorities on gadgets and tech news, watched its editorial integrity spiral out of control Monday, with staffers quitting and editors left to explain themselves in the wake of explosive new charges over its annual Consumer Electronics Show awards — a scandal, it would appear, that goes all the way to the top of its corporate umbrella, and could shake the entire ecosystem of online tech journalism.
CNET parent company CBS didn't just asked the site to remove Dish's Slingbox Hopper from consideration for its Best of CES Awards amidst a lawsuit between CBS and Dish; the removal came after executives learned the gadget would take the top award, and that request came down from CBS CEO Leslie Moonves himself.
Greg Sandoval, a seven-year veteran of the site, announced his resignation Monday morning on Twitter, citing a lack of "editorial independence" from CBS as his motivation. In a separate tweet, he called CNET's dishonesty about its parent company's involvement with Dish "unacceptable."
While CNET struggles to emerge from this mess, the situation appears to be threatening the entire ecosystem of the technology press, which has a history of reinventing its standards on bias in product reviews. A number of gadget and tech-news sites fall under larger corporate umbrellas: AOL owns Engadget; NewsCorp owns The Wall Street Journal and its influential tech coverage; BuzzFeed FWD has to answer to its investors, who put money in all sorts of tech ventures; IAC invests in companies like Aereo but owns The Daily Beast. Turns out this wasn't just a family feud — the CNET and CBS scandal at CES could set a precedent for years to come.