OLD Media Moves

All things disclosure

December 13, 2012

Posted by Ed O'Farrell

If you’re familiar with coverage of the technology beat, you’re undoubtedly familiar with All Things D run by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

What you might not be as familiar with is their disclosure statements, Swisher’s in particular.  Mossberg’s statement can be found here.

In her statement, Swisher discloses the following information:

  • Swisher’s spouse, Meghan Smith has been an executive at industry giant Google since 2003 and derives a substantial amount of her income from Google shares and options.  Swisher states she does not make decisions related to these positions nor does she own or have future rights to own or control any of them;
  • Swisher pledges she will not discuss anything with her spouse prior to publication and will not report any information she gleans from her spouse unless it can be attributed by name to her in that particular instance;
  • Although she does intend to break news on All Things D she will make, “subjective comments on the business and strategies of technology companies and issues”;
  • While Dow Jones is the owner of All Things D, Swisher and Mossberg have established an LLC whose purpose is to manage payments to  independent contractors, including herself;
  • Swisher does not coordinate her work with the advertising sales staff, nor does she solicit or sell ads for the newspaper, web site or sponsorships for the All Things D conference;
  • While she does make a number of unpaid speeches each year, if she accepts a speaking fee it will not be from a company she covers.

Swisher acknowledges her disclosure is “more than most of you want to know,”  but if you’re an end user like me you do want to know as much as you can about writers’ conflicts in order to gauge the credibility of their reporting or analysis.

So I am a bit dismayed that concerted disclosures from prominent voices such as Swisher and Mossberg continue to be conspicuously absent from their counterparts in the business and financial press, where conflicts and cynicism are at least as prevalent if not greater.

Ed O’Farrell is an avid reader of business journalism. He is also worked in b2b business news publishing, having been employed by Institutional Investor, the Bond Buyer, and Money-Media in various sales and marketing capacities.

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