CNET fires editor to please advertiser? Three reasons I don't believe it

CNET GameSpot editorial director Jeff Gerstmann was supposedly fired for giving an advertiser's game a low score. I don't buy it. Here's why.

  • 1. Gotta keep 'em separated. Yes, GameSpot makes its money by selling ads about the very same games the publication writes about. That's exactly what makes it a bad precedent to let advertisers call the shots. Exhibit A: PC World, which kept integrity-laced editor Harry McCracken and sacked the suit who tried to make McCracken pander to Apple.
  • 2. Follow the money. Firing a senior employee is expensive. It would've been far more cost-effective to simply change the review's score, or to rewrite or reassign it to get a more positive take (that's a "pos-men" to 30 Rock fans.)
  • 3. This is how it starts. Shooting a reviewer to appease an advertiser would be a terrible precedent to set. CNET has a solid reputation for telling powerful tech companies to go fish. CNET reporters refuse to honor tech vendors' imaginary embargoes on stories, and they've always been blunt with criticism of products. That's why CNET is successful and credible, even though I make fun of their writing skills.

I think Gerstmann was let go for entirely other reasons that had nothing to do with his low review score for a mediocre game. This anonymous post — whoops, it's been removed — by an alleged ad sales worker at CNET claims a flap over Gerstmann's review had already come and gone prior to this week.

I haven't been able to catch Gerstmann at his home phone in Petaluma or via his Facebook page. Jeff, what really happened? Drop me a line.