CNET Finally Reports On Its Own Fight With CBS Over Dish CES Award

from the a-bit-slow-out-the-gate dept

Realizing that the longer it did nothing, the worse it looked, CNET itself has finally reported on the events that transpired last week when corporate boss CBS stepped into the middle of their editorial process and sought to deny CNET the ability to choose the product they thought was the best of CES, the Dish DVR with Hopper and Sling.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: cbs, cnet, dish

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “CNET Finally Reports On Its Own Fight With CBS Over Dish CES Award”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
John Fendersonsays:

Spot on

That’s only going to add to the cloud over CNET’s reviews going forward.

Indeed so. Ms. Turrentine’s explanation makes me feel less, not more, confident in CNet. They may do good work, and CBS may only rarely cause distortion in their reporting — but if I can’t tell when that distortion is happening and when it isn’t, then I have to assume that it’s always happening.

Chosen Rejectsays:

Re: Spot on

It is always happening. Starting at the time that CBS informed CNET that CBS had final say, the writers will choose what to write based on that, even if subconsciously. I doubt many writers will spend a lot of time on certain articles knowing there is a possibility that it will be censored. We know that next year during CES, CNET will not be considering all possible gadgets for their Best Of. It’s a fact. Each writer will look at the possibilities and think, “CBS might not like that one, so I won’t even consider it.”

And that thought process will happen for every article idea from every CNET writer. The article they eventually write might not been edited or changed by CBS, but the writer will have written it with that possibility in mind already.


She's also signalling . . .

She’s also signalling that she’ll follow corporate policy or her bosses from above. That includes, saying nothing. Preventing leaks. Covering up.

Whether or not you protest loudly internally doesn’t matter. What matters is that we can trust you, CNET and CBS. I don’t trust any of you.

CBS litigation should not be affected by CNET’s award any more than it would be affected by a similar award from any other news source. CBS could claim editorial independence and that CNET’s award should have no more weight in the litigation than an award from another source.


Re: I don't know...

You can quit and keep your ethics and reputation intact.

Or you can stay, make excuses and lose your reputation.

CBS reputation is already ruined. Whether a journalist wants to stay or quit is their own individual choice. I’m not saying either choice is less valid. It’s up to you what message you want to send.


Re: I don't know...

It is a question of contrafactism. If something had gone another way… Maybe it would have made the complete CNET journalistic staff quit to form their own new company. It is not without precedence.

Anyway she sold out completely already when she admitted that the bottomline of the business was what she was worried about. If you are so concerned about your companys economy that you are prepared to blatantly censor yourself, you are not a good Editor in Chief: You are acting like an accountant or vice director, which is exactly what you cannot do when handling journalistic tasks.

A Non-Mousesays:

CNET = CBS mouthpiece

“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.”

Irrelevant, since all of their “good work” is filtered through the CBS suits. If CBS has final say on what CNET publishes, then all you’re really getting is CBS’ opinion. Anything that doesn’t match CBS’ agenda will never see the light of day.

That One Guysays:

Too little, too late

I’m sorry, but given the fact that she and her team caved in once, and changed what they had written due to pressure from the owners of the company, why exactly should anyone trust that it won’t happen again in the future? I mean, it may sound noble when she claims that she stayed so she could fight such things from the inside in the future, but what exactly does she plan on doing to stop it from happening again, that she didn’t try this time around?

Just as important to consider, is that though this time the split between what the reporters had written, vs. what the suits wanted written has been fairly public, given this I can’t see how anyone could avoid wondering how many of their articles in the future will have to be ‘corporate approved’, removing any trace of an unbiased opinion or reporting.

In the end I’d have to agree with the final paragraph of the article here, her decision to stay has basically told CBS that they can do what they want, and all they’ll get is a little push-back and complaining before the ‘news’ team caves and types out what they’re told to.


Re: Too little, too late

Not to mention CBS now knows that she’ll be sure that she clears everything through them first before informing anyone else. That way when this happens again, it won’t be public.

If she felt so strongly, why didn’t she just say they wouldn’t award a “Best of Show” this year and defer all questions to CBS Communications?

Chosen Rejectsays:

Re: Re: Too little, too late

Think also how this chills the other journalists. Sure they could write a possibly-controversial piece and hope it gets published, but why bother? It’s not just that we’ll never know if something published was filtered; it’s that we definitely know that some things won’t be written to begin with.

All Over the Net

So many sites on the net seem to me to be fronts for someone to promote their own product. Wait… where was I going with this? CBS doesn’t even HAVE their own stupid product though. They have commercials.

Lucky me I don’t have to watch CBS unless there’s a football game on. Who’s got the Superbowl this year anyhow? Please, not CBS?


There’s no need to fight to ensure it doesn’t happen again. One time was enough to ruin any semblance of creditability with the process.

What the public has learned is that the CNET vote doesn’t mean crap because CBS pulls the final strings saying all is good or not.

What it means is the usual, it’s rigged when it doesn’t suit the corporate home office. Sorry that’s not the way you maintain any sort of believability. To have this controversy go on this long before answering just says holding the job is more important than credibility.


They're done...

Every single member of the CNET Reviews team is a dedicated, ethical, passionate technology critic.

….Not anymore….

I stand by my team and the years of work they have put into making CNET what it is.

…You also stood by and let your corporate masters and the minutes of thought they put into censoring you destroy those years of work….

CNET is now and forever a tarnished technological news source. How are we supposed to know what news has been filtered by their powerful owners?

The best option, and really only option is to abandon them as a reliable news source.


The part that really upsets me isn’t just that they pulled the award, but that they posted the BS CBS explanation on their website instead of posting the truth about what happened. They say they wanted to post the real reason but were overrulled by the CBS flacks. That is worse then pulling the award itself, putting out a fake reason for what happened. How does that gibe with the editors protestations of integrity? That’s not only dishonest, but is outright lying to their readers. Pure coverup. How can anyone believe anything on CNET from now on?


Integrity = no job

Quitting might also mean losing one’s home, since quitting for “integrity” might very well mean not working again for corporate America. Hope the kids have lots of health insurance saved up!

Sometimes people have to compromise their work ethics to preserve the more important parts of their lives.


Re: Integrity = no job

I sorta concur. I don’t quite get all the vitriol in the comments on this post.

Before I got to this comment I was mulling over all the pesky caveats like food, rent, kids and so on.

It doesn’t seem to me like she and the staff simply folded like lawn chairs and capitulated.

While I would have perhaps quit, I would have nothing substantive to lose,only things to gain from the ensuing shit storm.


Mr. Applegatesays:

Re: Integrity = no job

Sometimes people have to compromise their work ethics to preserve the more important parts of their lives.

Exactly what is more important to a reporter than their ethics?

She took the easy path, keeping the job, and now everyone knows the only thing she can be trusted to do is kiss corporate ass!

Bruce Burbanksays:

side note

And let us not overlook that this whole fiasco has triggered a massive Streisand effect for CBS, because even if CNET did in the end award Best in Show to some other product, we all know what their unbiased, un-interfered-with selection would have been.

Even though I guess they didn’t officially win the award, I doubt anybody at Dish is disappointed to see all the coverage of this story this week.

weneedhelp - not signed insays:

Integrity must mean something different at CNET

“We were in an impossible situation as journalists.”
If you have integrity, it was not an “impossible situation” at all. The decision should have been crystal clear. No matter how loud you declare:
Going forward, I will do everything within my power to prevent this situation from happening again. – It is just an empty gesture.

“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.” – In reality: I decided that the best thing for my team was to get through the day as best we could, shut our mouths, and keep our jobs. Integrity sold, check.

It is a hard decision to leave a job due to ethics. I mean we all have bills to pay, but if you have to constantly second guess if what you are doing will get squashed or worse, get changed by upper management, well that cant be a very healthy environment either.

...... ok reality check

CBS owns CNET. It is one thing to note that CNET’s claims to future reliability are not weak. A person is now well founded to question their independence from CBS for the foreseeable future. HOWEVER,

Posting the required verbiage one’s employer has foisted off on you is not some sign of weakness or moral turpitude. I am a person who has, repeatedly, left jobs because I felt they were morally questionable, from my early days at a telemarketing center to my most recent foray into real estate.

Pretty much every job on this earth requires SOME level of ethical compromise though, if you think about it long and hard enough.

The real criticism here should be of CBS for bullying, not against the victims of their bullying. CBS has basically just ruined CNET’s brand. CBS can dump CNET, but CNET can’t dump themselves.


I think there’s some self-righteousness going on here re the staff. It’s easy to say they should have just quit, but how many of us really would have? Not that this was their shining moment or even close, but quitting a good job just ain’t as easy as some here seem to think. Plus, their replacements would almost certainly be worse because they’d be the kind who know they’re walking into a whorehouse and still keep walking.

What is more damning is Turrentine’s apparent agreement that the orders from the top were kinda understandable because “the conflict of interest was real — a legal case can impact the bottom line of our company”. A lot of things could impact the bottom line, including, for example, recommending a competitor’s product or exposing corporate fraud. That such garbage come out of the maws of the suits is not surprising. That the staff accepts it is unforgivable. At the very least, if they were really upset with the order, they could have published the forbidden content anyway and see what happened. This would have given them a shot at keeping their jobs and their integrity intact.

It’s sickening though that the focus of so muc blame is on the staff instead of the real scum, CBS top management, in particular CEO, Leslie Moonves. He and his “management” team have no business pretending to be in the news business. In a just world he would be out in the street and CBS would lose its license for pretending to be a news organization.

Mr. Applegatesays:


Seems like there is a song somewhere that covered this many years ago.

You’ve got to stand for something (or your fall for anything).

“Now Daddy didn’t like trouble, but if it came along
Everyone that knew him knew which side that he’d be on
He never was a hero, or this county’s shinin’ light
But you could always find him standing up
For what he thought was right

He’d say you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything
You’ve got to be your own man not a puppet on a string
Never compromise what’s right and uphold your family name
You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”

Ophelia Millaissays:

It's not self-righteous to call invertebrates 'spineless'

True, it’s not easy to quit.

I recently dealt with this in a large company where I was one of very few people to stick my neck out over an unethical policy. I found, by talking to my coworkers, that most just hadn’t even thought about it much. Once they did think about it, they all agreed that the situation stunk to high heaven. Yet despite this, they each had various reasons they wouldn’t quit, disobey, publicly protest, demand concessions, or even voice their concerns to higher-ups:

1. Inertia, complacency, overall job satisfaction, desire to maintain good relations with coworkers, realization that it’ll blow over and soon be forgotten. “Yeah, I was ready to quit or raise a big stink about this yesterday, but I thought about it and you know, it’s just one little thing wrong in an otherwise good job.” (This goes on for years.)

2. Deference to authority, confidence in superiors, fear of reprimand, fear of not being promoted or getting a raise, fear of being the only one to disagree or take greater action than others, fear of peers being negatively affected. Aside from not wanting to rock the boat, people feel it can be counterproductive to doubt the boss or consider options other than what’s offered from above. “Yes, it’s unethical, but surely they’re doing what’s good for the company, what’s good for all of us in the long run; they rely on our confidence in them. Where do I sign?”

3. Fear of the unknown: not having another job lined up, no confidence of landing on one’s feet, reluctance to belt-tighten, fear of being seen as a boat-rocker when looking for a new job, embarrassment of facing friends & family with even temporary abandonment of the dogged pursuit of life “success” as measured by career/income/property. It’s astonishing how many conflict-averse adults allow their parents to dictate their priorities, or who equate downsizing with personal failure. “But I can’t give up the McMansion yet; I’ll lose money on it. Besides, I have kids!”

4. Fear of legal repercussions. Many have signed a no-compete agreement, so they feel like they can’t start up or join another company and carry on like nothing happened, and don’t consider talking to a lawyer about what the risks actually are. Some also worry that public protest carries a risk of personal liability for a perceived negative impact on their publicly traded company’s stock price. “What if they sue me?”

5. Prioritization of personal ethics. Many are paralyzed by moral conflicts, or just feel it is more important to follow through with one’s personal and contractual commitments than to stand up for any other rights or moral courses of action that arise later. Faced with the choice, they’ll continue following the rules and letting the captains steer the ship. “Yes, it’s starting to look like this relationship isn’t working out so well, but I made my bed and now I have to lie in it.”

6. Mercenary tendencies. Some are just in it for the money. They don’t care about the ethics of the situation, they just want the paycheck. Maybe they felt that way when they signed on, or maybe they’re just beaten-down and numb from all the corporate B.S. “Let someone else fight the good fight. For me, it’s just a job.”

7. Blissful ignorance, resignation to the fact that every job has some kind of distasteful aspects, or just no room in one’s life for work-related drama. Some avoid or ignore anything that upsetting. “I just can’t worry about this right now. Besides, it’s just work. I’ve seen worse. I’m on the path of least resistance.”

8. Gratitude. “The economy is down; I’m lucky/glad/blessed to have a job.”

9. Organizing as a group and taking one’s concerns to management is one step removed from forming a union, which many people oppose for political reasons, and which puts management squarely on the defensive. It may well create a hostile, adversarial environment for the everyone. “I don’t want to screw things up for me and my coworkers. Besides, unions are bad for business, bad for America.”

Every one of these reasons can reasonably be interpreted as a manifestation of spinelessness. Just because there’s a bunch of them doesn’t change that. It is what it is. If that’s too harsh a name for it, how about “fear-based decision-making”.

If you’re spineless, just admit it. And if you begrudge being derided for it, then either grow a thicker skin, or grow some balls and do something to improve your situation. Calling your accuser “self-righteous” is just ad hominem.

(FWIW, I did stick it out in gracious/mercenary mode for a while, but quit before getting something else lined up, and haven’t regretted it one bit. It required some adjustments, but I have other sources of income and am doing fine.)


The idiocy is...

The problem with Lindsey’s statements is that while her motions are all in the right direction, CBS has already demonstrated they will undercut CNET’s editorial process the instant it suits them.

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.

This amounts to “I will ensure that all pistons keep firing in the engine, regardless of whether the carburetor fails.” Car still don’t go.

Ophelia Millaissays:


From an Associated Press report:

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.


She didn't have to quit

She didn’t’ have to quit in a dramatic fashion.

She could have just refused to accept the order and publish the winner anyway. That would be her fighting for her team as she says (after the fact) is important while still keeping her journalistic integrity.

Sure the suits could have fired her but that would have been even better for her staff, as they would be forced to accept that CNET has been comprised and start looking for other work.

If her other skills were at all decent I am guessing that she would find work elsewhere as she was able to show she had integrity. At this point she is tainted.

She states

“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.”

… but what she didn’t realize then is she WAS abandoning them on journalist integrity level as soon as she was more worried about the bottom line.

“The conflict of interest was real — a legal case can impact the bottom line of our company and introduce the possibility of bias –“

I guess it easy to play Monday morning QB if it isn’t your hide on the line.


Journalism will always be biased. Choosing one story over another is just exactly that, and one product over another is no different. Giving out a reward for one thing over another just drives the point home. Why is one product better than another? Well, because you made an opinion about it saying so and then take it a step further and give out rewards.

If you don’t want to show bias then just report on every single item: this is what it is and this it what it does and nothing more. Inform the audience and let them make up their own mind, that’s being unbiased – saying something is the best and giving out a “gold star” – that’s showing bias.

The editor’s lame excuse for “standing ground” is one of the most pathetic attempts at sounding sincere I’ve seen in quite some time. If she had any integrity she would have just published the results anyway, handed out the rewards, and FACED THE CONSEQUENCES – that’s what integrity is. Backing down, tucking tail, and then trying to be honorable after-the-fact is just plain cowardly. Just admit you want to keep your job, it’s plainly obvious and there’s nothing wrong with that – income is more important than giving out pats on the back.

The Future of CNET's Conflict-of-Interest

Look at it this way, just about every discount store/grocery store/drug store/convenience store chain has its own house brand of soda pop and suchlike. There are something like a hundred different Linux distributions, most of them derivative of (“downstream from”) Debian and Ubuntu. As Android becomes more ramified, and has a larger assortment of functionality built into the core distribution, it will become easier and easier to build a fully tricked-out tablet, or game console, or DVR box. Furthermore, these boxes will be “opportunistic omnivores” in terms of their back-end communication, able to use multiple and alternative satellites, cellphone, WiFi, and either cable or telephone landlines, according to whichever is cheapest at the moment. It will be rather less difficult to have a house brand “data box” than it is to have house brand soda. CBS will, as a matter of course, sell its own boxes in all the major categories, just as Sears Roebuck used to have its own brands of typewriters, along with every significant household appliance or electronic entertainment device. You can see the kind of chronic conflict-of-interest CNET is going to have.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it