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The LaiseBoyPhilosophy, Part 7—Do As They Say, Not As They Do?
Jerry Laiserin

According to a venture capitalist recently quoted in SiliconValley.com (a service of the San Jose Mercury News), "Conflict of interest is good." Is this just a post-millennial variation on the "Greed is good" leitmotif of the 1980's? Or, as we've been trumpeting here in the LaiseBoy Philosophy, are enlightened folks ready to embrace a new and more sophisticated understanding of personal communications in world of networks and networking?

As early as IssueTwo, "Mission, Vision, and Full Disclosure," and as recently as IssueSix, "Of Red Herrings and Rotten Fish," we've bared all possibly conflicting circumstances and argued that any reader benefit that flows from our insider status in the industries we cover comes at the price of potential conflict. Now, Stanford University President, John Hennessy (defending himself, not us) "stresses that there's an important distinction between merely "perceived" or "possible" conflicts and actual actions that conflict...," according to SiliconValley.com. Hennessy concludes, "University policies require you to disclose possible conflicts. That is exactly the method I use." And it's exactly the method that we use, too.

We have nothing but admiration for true professional journalists, but the cant of journalistic purity and piety occasionally wears thin. For example, there are reports that the patrician Washington Post newspaper recently excoriated corporate America for its preferred method of reporting the cost of stock options in financial statements, while the Washington Post Company used the same methods in its own financial reports. Meanwhile, the even more patrician New York Times lashed Enron for its arcane trading practices, even as the Times itself reportedly engaged in similar deals with Enron.

If the Post and the Times are not above the "appearance" of conflict, then there's little to expect from trade journals and business publications. Because they are journalists, they insist they avoid conflict. Because we are not journalists, we disclose possible conflicts and then move on. We hope to put this matter to rest by incorporating our "un-journalistic" disclosures into our Terms of Use, accessible from every page of our website.

JL



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