THE BLOG
01/09/2007 10:55 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Release 0.9 : Follow-up on Disclosure - Reporters v. Commentators

This is mostly a response to the numerous welcome comments - thank you! [bows and blushes]

FWIW, I began my career as a fact-checker for Forbes magazine and graduated to reporter; I did that for about three years. (And I trained at the Harvard Crimson, which had the high-mindedness and self-consciousness of a college newspaper that wanted to be part of the journalistic community. On Sunday nights we would debate our editorial policy, convinced that the first thing Richard Nixon - yes I'm that old/experienced! - would reach for Monday morning would be the Crimson editorial page.)

So I think a lot about these issues...

First of all, yes, there's a big difference between reporters - who should be disinterested and objective - and commentators - who should disclose their biases and let the readers decide how much salt to add. Reporters are the voice of the publication; commentators have their own voice, blessed by the publication but speaking for their individual selves. There are variations on these, but that's the basic distinction I would draw. (Adjust your vision for the television screen.) Bloggers are commentators, generally.

About money: Aside from WPP Group, which pays on the order of $100,000 a year, I don't actually get paid for sitting on boards other than direct expenses. In fact, I generally "pay" to sit on the board, in the form of an investment into the company or a contribution to a non-profit.

So there's a difference in motivation between, say, consultants and directors of large companies, who get paid by the company, and investors/small-company directors, who benefit only if the company does well. In the first case, you simply want to please the management from whom blessings flow [and yes, the compensation committee/other board members], and in the second you're trying to benefit the company itself, since you're a beneficiary. In both cases, you have an interest in being nice, but there are subtle differences.

About George Soros: His Open Society Institute has been a key source of funding for the After-School Corporation, where I am a (n unpaid) director, but I have no other formal ties to him. He prefers to work with local people, to his credit, rather than with American do-gooders. And yes, I think he has done a lot of good. In short, I think investment often does more good than aid, and investment tends to be more accountable. But specifics matter. More on NGOs' situation in Russia some other time. (I added my NGOs to my bio.)

On IT in health care: I flatter myself that I am not naïve about this. (My sisters include a vet, a cardiologist, a nurse and a radiologist.) Using IT in health care will be tremendously challenging, but it's worth the effort. If you really want to know what I think - 70 pages' worth - write to me at edyson@boxbe.com [I'm an investor in the company; you'll get a spam challenge but it will get to me] and I'll send you two old newsletters I wrote.

Brightmail/Symantec: I wasn't exactly the decision maker in that transaction. I was one of many investors. But as it happens I've known Symantec since before it was a security company.

That's it for now. more in due course, including on space and air.