Monday, September 21, 2009

28 Years

Today marks my 28th anniversary with Directors & Boards.

I chuckle now when I think about how I turned down the offer to join Directors & Boards back in 1981 — not once but twice over the course of several months of discussions with the principals backing the journal. It was at that time too academic a publication for my tastes, and, besides, who ever heard of corporate governance? It wasn't even a term in the popular lexicon three decades ago. I was a business writer and editor — covering everything from high finance to low sales (1981 being a pretty punk year for Corporate America). Not a word had I ever written or published about boards of directors. A board was in deep background back then — directors weren't even a factor in popular business coverage.

So, I am somewhat bemused that here I am, starting my 29th year as editor of Directors & Boards. The aforementioned principals must have seen something in me that I didn't see in myself. I finally relented, agreeing to give this "beat" of specializing in corporate boards a shot. On Sep. 21, 1981, I showed up at the door as the next editor of Directors & Boards.

On such an anniversary milestone, I am mindful of the following anecdote. When writer William Saroyan asked famed magazine editor H.L. Mencken (pictured) how to become a magazine editor, Mencken responded: "I notice what you say about your aspiration to edit a magazine. I am sending you by this mail a six-chambered revolver. Load it and fire every one into your head. You will thank me when you get to hell and learn from other editors there how dreadful their job was on earth."

I sometimes think Mencken's sentiment applies as well to those aspiring to a seat on a corporate board. Yes, there are days when the job can be dreadful. Just ask, for example, how it must feel to be a Bank of America director now being subpoenaed by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Or being a director of a company facing bankruptcy or scandal.

But (sorry, H.L.) if there is one thing I have learned over all these years, it's this: the joy of finding your calling in life — be it in editing a journal of corporate governance (especially now that the term is viscerally embedded in the lexicon) or in lending your time, energy and expertise to board service.