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 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.
Contrary to an already controversial move first reported last Friday, 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, sources tell The Verge's Joshua Topolsky. Now, CNET's corporate responsibilities appear to have made the long trusted site bend at will and, despite pushback from some of its writers and editors, it appears CNET may have moved to cover up the series of events that led to the removal of the award.
For CNET, all of this looks very bad. How can readers trust the site for its famously unbiased reviews and industry news coverage if a media-conglomerate overlord is insisting that some things just "can't exist"? The events that have unfolded since the scandal broke wide open haven't exactly restored anyone's faith. 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." Since, both CNET and CBS have released not-too-convincing statements.