CNET rescinds positive review because parent company is suing manufacturer

Tech site CNET was about to give Dish Network's latest set-top box a best-of-show editorial award, but rescinded the plaudits because its parent company, CBS, is suing the manufacturer. Mathew Ingram points out how this compromises CNET's journalistic credibility, and Buzzfeed's John Hermann says it exposes a profound difference in product journalism and actual journalism at the site.

While it looks like clueless corporate spite, I bet it's really about lawyers wanting to lower CBS's exposure to uncertainty in its boring lawsuit over contracts and copyright. The product review could end up influencing the court, and that alone is reason enough for it to come down.

The misery of litigation (including a plaintiff's perceived need to pursue it) blinds us to other risks, expecially for a business as frequently exposed to it the media. For some, it seems inconceivable not to accept legal advice after it's been sought—even when the negative consequences of taking it are profoundly obvious. And it's easy to imagine that lawyers get to micromanage a huge, change-averse company like CBS.

When it defends itself by saying that the litigation blackout "applies only to reviews, not news", though, CNET shows its colors badly. Gadget reviews might be the journalistic outhouse, but it's still bad form to burn it down when your own hacks are on the pot.


  1. So,  CNET loses all credibility and becomes biased in its reviews because its parent company gets ticked at someone who is really innovating for its customers. Can we really trust CNET anymore?

    1. I already didn’t trust CNET.  They bought a community called MacFixit years ago and the jerks that run CNET decimated it without much respect to the scores of users that contributed to it for many years.

      To this day, the corporate schmucks still disrespectfully keep it relatively hidden and miscategorized under “”. And the comments are allowed to be soiled with basher trolls instead of just focusing on “fixing Macs”.

      I still like MacFixit because of Topher, but that’s despite CNET, not because of it.

  2. You’d think by giving them a positive review you’d be generating more cash for them to happily pay the settlement on your lawsuit.

  3. Shouldn’t it also make you question the rest of CBS news credibility? Should one really think that if they engage in this sort of behavior with one journalistic part of their corporation that they are not engaging it with another? Shouldn’t the next time one considers watching 60 minutes that there is a good possibility that their credibility has also been breached? 

    It does not appear that some one in CNET instigated the journalistic breach, i.e. it was not within just that corporate silo, but an act of the corporate parent company. In that case, all the journalistic endeavors under that corporate parent are fairly called in to question.

    This isn’t so much about CNET, but about CBS as a whole.

    1. You mean like the puff piece they did on one of the **AA’s and just repeated the often debunked kajillions of dollars lost crap and did no actual research?

  4. Why didn’t the editors resign? And why aren’t the reporters on strike? Are they journalists or are they something else?

  5. Conflict of interest is just one of those side effects when businesses need to grow in order to survive. More competing news organizations might be good for the consumer, but they’re bad for business.

  6. “The misery of litigation” <– I like it. However, I think you're missing the second "as" in the sentence.

  7. The fact that we are a full day INTO this story and we have not heard a word of it from CNet or CBS tells me they are as clueless as they could be with what to do about it.

  8. Product journalists are just free-range PR shills. Gadgets, video games, movies… Very, very rarely you get an actual piece of journalism – you can tell because all the other sites link right to it with a ‘holy cow, what is this?’

    On the other hand the rest of ‘journalism’ has been coming down to their level, so we’re narrowing the gap, people!

  9. I’m actually still shocked people give CNET any credibility at all. In terms of internet-based journalism, they are consistently shown to be massively biased. Take for example any Apple product: never given a review less than perfect, despite it being technologically disadvantaged in many areas over their competition (iPad Mini vs Nexus 7). Not only that, but other great products (almost always an Android product) are given poor reviews in most cases.

    And don’t get me started on most of the writers’ disregard for reporting … they have been found intentionally ignoring facts that don’t agree with their side.

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