“With the departure of its respected managing editor, how many professional journalists are still left at Consumer Reports? Virtually all of the major editors who produced the iconic magazine, as well as some of its best and most experienced reporters, have left CR in the past couple of years. (Disclosure: I am one of the editors who chose to leave.)” – Jeff Fox, via AlterNet

The TeleRead Take: Oh, no, say it ain’t so. Didn’t our parents tells us never to buy a car or a refrigerator without checking out CR? As Fox sees it, business types have pushed aside editorial pros. Here’s part of Fox’s argument:

Consumer reports screen_shot_2015-07-26_at_1.09.17_pm
So has the watchdog really lost a lot of its bark—and fangs? This at a time when the ranks of actual journalists keep thinning at daily newspapers all over the country! If anything, we need a stronger CR?

On top of everything else there’s the Amazon factor. Could many people actually trust customer-to-customer reviews more than the work of the pros? I myself think this is one of life’s many, “It depends.” But undoubtedly, with hundreds and perhaps thousands of people reviewing some products sold online, the experts  hold less sway than before. And thus could the bean-counters be saying to writers and researchers, “Ok, we need a lot fewer of you”?

I myself would see such a rationate as a mistake. In this era of so many shoddily made products—no small number of which should be tested over their simulated lifetimes—we still deserve a full-strength CR.


  1. Consumer Reports was a real pioneer and did a lot of good things in its time, but to some degree it has gotten rigid and ossified over the years. The problem is, they look at everything from the perspective of the TV-educated, mainstream, moderate suburbanite and not everyone falls into that demographic. That’s why the individualized reviews at Amazon are so attractive. In a way, it’s the same as Encyclopedia Britannica versus Wikipedia – and we all know how that one came out. The Burkean conservatism in us all wants to see Consumer Reports and Britannica carry on but we don’t really want to buy them.

  2. But Marilynn, it isn’t just the raw analysis from the testers—it’s what it means to actual humans out there. That’s what the best journalists can excel at. Not to mention the ability to write clearly about the product-related complexities and package the information well.

  3. Hi David,
    I’m Jeff Fox, the former CR editor you quote. Sorry it took me so long to come upon your piece and respond. As I wrote about in a subsequent report, http://stateofthenet.net/2016/02/22-more-experts-have-fled-horrific-leadership-at-consumer-reports/
    It’s not just a matter of CR downsizing to save money. The entire journalistic operation was gutted and done so unethically (read my second report above). CR openly tolerates dishonesty and incompetence in its senior executives now, so it can’t be trusted or respected. As I reported, even the CR Board of Directors is complicit. I’d appreciate it if you’d help get the word out about this; would be happy to speak with you on the phone.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.