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CNET Editor Speaks Out

Lindsey Turrentine, Editor-in-Chief at CNET:

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.

Shawn King at The Loop:

Anyone else want to join me in calling bullshit on her statement? She didn’t do “everything within my power” to stop it this time. What makes us believe that she will next time?

While I’m not sure Shawn is in a position to say if Turrentine did everything she could, I agree with her statement that she was in an impossible situation.

Journalism only works when its free of restrictions like the ones CBS put on CNET last week. What the tech blog did by recalling its award to the Dish Hopper sucks, and puts its journalistic integrity on the line. That said, Turrentine is being open about what happened.

Here she is again:

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.

That bit about issuing “a transparent statement” is key here, and why I think Shawn’s comment might be unfair. By passing along the official CBS statement, Turrentine exposed CBS to be a censor, turning their own words against them. In an impossible situation, I think she made the best choice she could. Quitting would not change the policy, and ignoring it would just lead to her losing her job. Painting CBS in to a corner on this was the best call any editor in her position could have made.