May 24, 2024

Media Decoder Blog: The Verge Hires Writer Who Quit CNET in Protest

Greg Sandoval, the CNET senior writer who resigned in protest when the site’s parent company, CBS, interfered with its editorial coverage last month, has been hired by The Verge, the Web site that first revealed the full extent of CBS’s involvement.

Mr. Sandoval will be a senior reporter for The Verge when he starts in a couple of weeks. He said in a blog post that he had received a “written guarantee from management that nobody from the business side of the company will ever have any authority over my stories.” The post, which he published Sunday night, also said, “Long before I arrived, The Verge committed itself to editorial independence.”

The Verge, a technology-oriented Web site, is a little more than a year old. It is owned by Vox Media, the parent of the sports network SB Nation and the new gaming site Polygon, and edited by Joshua Topolsky and the other writers who migrated en masse from AOL’s Engadget in 2011.

Mr. Topolsky, the editor in chief of The Verge, said of Mr. Sandoval: “When we started talking about what he could do here, I think we both felt there was a huge opportunity for growth as well as experimentation in what he does as a reporter. He’s obsessed with getting the news — the real news — and I find that kind of energy infectious.”

Mr. Sandoval’s move was prompted by CBS’s decision to prohibit the staff of CNET — the longtime sponsor of the annual Best of CES Awards at the International Consumer Electronics Show — from giving the “Best of Show” award to an innovative product it deemed illegal. CBS is battling in court with Dish Network over the legality of the product, called the Hopper, a digital video recorder that allows users to automatically skip all the ads on prime-time network television shows.

CBS required the CNET staff to exclude the Hopper from competition and vote for a new award winner, the Razer Edge gaming tablet. The company would not let CNET disclose what had happened. But Mr. Topolsky found out and wrote about the second vote on The Verge a few days later, provoking widespread criticism of CBS by journalists and academics.

Mr. Sandoval announced his resignation via Twitter on Jan. 14, less than an hour after The Verge published its report.

CBS sought to portray its involvement as a one-time incident. In a recent statement, the company said: “CNET is not going to give an award or any other validation to a product which CBS is challenging as illegal, other networks believe to be illegal and one court has already found to violate the copyright act in its application. Beyond that, CNET will cover every other product and service on the planet.”

Last week, the organizer of the Consumer Electronics Show cut its ties with CNET and reinstated the Hopper as the winner of the Best in Show award.

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