He is in a tough spot, but thats the life of an editor! He's luckier than most to now be insulated from the pressures of advertisers. That said, I agree with David, it's hard to win.
If it were me (and it's not!), I think just publishing some guidelines would help show and prove that all was fair, for example:
- Reviews have to be labeled clearly as reviews, and require them to provide a balanced look. In other words, most products should have a negative or two. The alternative is to publish 'product intro's that just do gee whiz walk through. Both can have value, but its important that the community see what is being done.
- Publish no review of a RG product unless a competiting product has already been reviewed. This is a bit unfair to RG, but errs on the side of caution and fairness.
- Absolutely disclose if the author has a relationship with RG . For example, I'm still listed in their Friends of Program so I can get their software free and absolutely that can have a subtle biasing affect.
Those might not be perfect, but the idea is to write the rules and stick to them. I'd challenge anyone unhappy with what Steve does to look at it from his perspective as an editor and make suggestions that would help address the problem and serve the community while remembering that RG is bearing the cost of the site plus his salary. Steve's been my friend and business partner for a long time now and I promise you that he is trying to do the best he can to be fair to everyone.