The 2013 Best of CES Awards: CNET's story

The true story of what happened before last week's Best of CES Awards unveiling

Last week, about 40 members of the CNET editorial staff met in the CNET trailer in the parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center to vote on our official Best of CES winner. We gathered on Wednesday evening and heard from each editor covering the show what he or she liked best.

Ultimately, we chose the Dish Hopper for our Best of CES award because of innovative features that push shows recorded on DVR to iPads.

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.

Here is that official statement:
The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product.

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.

CNET Senior Vice President and General Manager Mark Larkin and I reacted by gathering our team and telling them the only thing we were allowed to say, which was and is the truth as far as I know: That because of active litigation between CBS and Dish, we had to disqualify Dish and that the only fair thing to do in this new reality was to revote and inform Dish about what had happened. That is what we did.

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.

 

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