Walt Mossberg is executive editor of The Verge and editor at large of Recode, websites owned by Vox Media. He writes a weekly column for both and also has a weekly podcast, Ctrl-Walt-Delete. He is also co-executive producer of the annual Code Conference. From 1991 through 2013 he was the principal technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal.
Here is a statement of my ethics and coverage policies. It is more than most of you want to know, but, in the age of suspicion of the media, I am laying it all out.
I am not an objective news reporter, and am not responsible for business coverage of technology companies. I am a subjective opinion columnist, a reviewer of consumer technology products and a commentator on technology issues. I don’t offer investment advice, or follow the financial progress or stock prices of technology companies. I focus on products and services, not revenues and earnings.
I don’t accept any money, free products, or anything else of value, from the companies whose products I cover, or from their public relations or advertising agencies. I also don’t accept trips, speaking fees, or product discounts from companies whose products I cover, or from their public relations or advertising agencies. I don’t serve as a consultant to any companies, or serve on any corporate boards or advisory boards.
I do occasionally take a free t-shirt from these companies, but my wife hates it when I wear them, as she considers them ugly.
I don’t own a single share of stock in any of the companies whose products I cover, or any shares in technology-oriented mutual funds.
I also have a 401K plan and, like many 401K plans, the holdings of the funds it includes are managed without my guidance. My plan includes no technology-specific funds or indexes, although it might from time to time include technology stocks.
The products I review are typically lent to me by their manufacturers for a few weeks or months. I return any products I am lent for review, except for items of minor value that companies typically don’t want back. In the case of these items, I either discard them or give them away to charity.
Companies often visit my office, or invite me to theirs, to brief me on new products, Web sites, or software, before they are released — usually a few weeks or days ahead of time. I don’t review most of these products.
I test every product I review, never basing a review on such a meeting or a press release. If I do decide to review a product, I sometimes negotiate with a company the timing of the review, but never its outcome or tone. I sometimes strive to be the first to publish a review, but I never promise a good review in exchange for that timing. When I meet with a company, I ask sharp questions and make sharp comments, as any good journalist does. I frequently warn companies that these exchanges don’t constitute advice from me, and may not predict the outcome of any review, or even whether I will write a review.
During my testing, I ask companies a lot of questions about things I encounter. If, in the course of testing a product, I ask a company about a problem I have encountered and the problem is fixed before the product actually is made available to my readers, I usually don’t mention it, because it is irrelevant. My job is to judge the product as it will be put into the hands of consumers, even if I am looking at it early.
If I want a product I review for my own use, I buy it at normal prices or my employer does.
I never coordinate my reviews with our advertising sales staff, and don’t solicit or sell ads for the Web site, or sponsorships for the conferences. The separate ad sales staff does this. Advertisers and companies whose products I cover don’t get to see my columns in advance, or to select or reject column topics. Similarly, sponsors of our conferences don’t get to select or reject speakers on the agenda, or to select or preview the questions we ask speakers on stage. We don’t charge companies for appearing on stage to demo new products, and we don’t pay speakers.
On many occasions, I have written negative reviews of products from companies that advertise on this Web site or which sponsor the conference and positive reviews of companies that aren’t advertisers or sponsors.
I make a number of speeches each year, some paid and some unpaid, but I never appear, even for free, at events hosted by companies whose products I cover.
Re/code is owned wholly by Vox Media, a company with an audience of 170 million worldwide. It has eight distinct media brands: The Verge (Technology and Culture), Vox.com (News), SB Nation (Sports), Polygon (Gaming), Eater (Food and Nightlife), Racked (Shopping, Beauty and Fashion), Curbed (Real Estate and Home), as well as Re/code (Tech Business).
Vox Media has a number of investors, including, but not limited to, Comcast Ventures and NBCUniversal, both of which are owned by Comcast Corporation.
My posts have total editorial independence from these investors, even when they touch on products and services these companies produce, compete with, or invest in. The same goes for all content on Re/code and at our conferences. No one in this group has influence on or access to the posts we publish. We will also add a direct link to this disclosure when we write directly about the companies.