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Originally published January 18 2013

CNET gadget reviews found to be staged by parent company

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) Just when you think there is no integrity left among corporate media, one of its reporters proves you wrong.

That's the case with Greg Sandoval, a top technology reporter for CBS Corportation-owned CNET, a website with a reputation for thorough, complete and honest reviews of the latest tech gadgets. He tweeted recently that he's resigning over what he has called editorial interference, a moral act of conscience that has called into question the site's integrity.

According to The Associated Press, the disagreement stems from the site's "choice of best gadgets from last week's International CES show in Las Vegas," a showcase of the latest consumer electronics.

The online magazine voted Dish Network Corp.'s "Hopper with Sling" the best home theater and sound product, AP reported. Dish Network bills its Hopper technology as "the most advanced Whole-Home HD DVR available," which is "full HD DVR functionality on every TV" in a home, according to the Dish Network website.

'I just want to be known as an honest reporter'

However, CBS and other networks are currently in a legal battle with Dish over Hopper's ability to skip over advertisements, the bread-and-butter of traditional broadcast networks. So, CBS execs nixed the selection of Hopper, saying it could not be considered for "Best of CES" by the online site. As a result, CNET officially chose a soundbar from TV maker Vizio.

When execs from the network overrode the selection, Sandoval announced he was resigning, saying he'd lost confidence in CBS' prior commitment to editorial independence.

"I just want to be known as an honest reporter," he tweeted, then added: "CNET wasn't honest about what occurred regarding Dish."

Apparently responding to Sandoval's resignation, CNET Reviews Editor-in-Chief Lindsey Turrentine published a story online just a few hours later saying that some 40 CNET editorial members voted for Dish's Hopper, saying the technology won out because of "innovative features that push shows recorded on DVR to iPads."

Turrentine noted that "the conflict of interest was real," and she said she thought about resigning as well, but decided to remain with the website to explain what was going on to staff and to prevent a recurrence of the editorial interference.

After being alerted to the legal conflict with CBS and Dish, "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," she wrote.

She went on to say that CNET staffers were asked to cast new ballots after the Hopper was excluded by CBS, and said she regretted not letting readers know beforehand that Hopper had been selected best technological device.

"I wish I could have overridden the decision not to reveal that Dish had won the vote," she wrote in her story. "For that I apologize to my staff and to CNET readers."

"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," she said.

Doing the right thing

AP said a spokesman for CBS, which also owns well-known properties like CBS News and 60 Minutes, would not comment "on how a similar situation might be handled it occurred at its other news properties."

In a prepared statement, the network said instead, "In terms of covering actual news, CNET maintains 100 percent editorial independence, and always will."

Why anyone would believe that is subject to debate, considering the editorial decision to reverse the choice of best product made by folks who could be considered very knowledgeable - because it's their job to be - about technology.

What is not so debatable is Sandoval's decision to stand up for what is right, follow his principles and resign. For that, he should be commended.

A talented tech writer, here's hoping Sandoval signs on with another tech publication soon.


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