Top CNET reporter resigns, citing concerns with CBS' award controversy

CBS and a group of broadcasting networks filed a lawsuit against Dish this spring because the Hopper has a feature that lets people automatically fast-forward through commercials in primetime TV. Broadcasters claim that the feature disrupts the existing television advertising model and could hurt their bottom lines.

The Verge tech blog first reported on Monday that CNET's editorial staff voted for the Hopper with Sling device to win its top "Best of Show Award," but said top CBS executives forced CNET to pull the device from consideration and re-vote on the award. Those details conflicted with the accounts CNET and CBS gave last week, which did not say that the Hopper was voted "Best of Show," the Verge said.

Dish issued a statement last week saying it was "saddened that CNET's staff is being denied its editorial independence because of CBS' heavy-handed tactics."

In a blog post published on Monday after Sandoval's resignation, CNET Reviews Editor-in-Chief Lindsey Turrentine weighed in on the matter. Turrentine said managers at the tech blog fought hard 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."

Turrentine said the editors were told by CBS to release a statement saying the news site removed the Hopper from consideration "due to active litigation involving our parent company."

Turrentine said the CBS directive put them in "an impossible situation as journalists." Still, she wished she "could have overridden the decision not to reveal that Dish had won the vote" and apologized to readers for not doing so.

In his tweets, Sandoval made clear that he believed "no one in News or Reviews editorial did anything wrong" and said CBS and CNET "were great to me."

"I believe CNET's leaders are also honest but used poor judgement," he said in a tweet.

"I just want to be known as an honest reporter. Thanks everyone for reading me," Sandoval added in a final tweet.

In addition to CNET, Sandoval has worked for The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, according to his LinkedIn profile. Sandoval broke the news about the copyright alert system that Comcast, AT&T and other Internet service providers are set to roll out this year to cut down on file-sharing of pirated movies and music. The administration had expressed concern about Sandoval breaking the news, according to emails obtained by Wired. He also authored CNET's former Media Maverick blog.

In response to the kerfuffle over the Hopper incident, CBS said in a statement that it "has nothing but the highest regard for the editors and writers at CNET, and has managed that business with respect as part of its CBS Interactive division since it was acquired in 2008."

"This has been an isolated and unique incident in which a product that has been challenged as illegal, was removed from consideration for an award. The product in question is not only the subject of a lawsuit between Dish and CBS, but between Dish and nearly every other major media company as well," the company said.  "CBS has been consistent on this situation from the beginning, and, in terms of covering actual news, CNET maintains 100 [percent] editorial independence, and always will.