I've spent my career trying to help people without connections understand what's going on so that they have a chance of getting a fair shake from the connected and the powerful.
It's easy to write a good column if you've got good information. It's hard if you have to depend on style alone. I suppose there are people who can get away with styling on a regular basis. I'm not one of them. You're probably not, either.
People are treating the Stewart case as seriously as Enron when it's really over trivia.
If the government decides to put your life under a microscope, do you think it won't find something? I suspect there's not an adult in the country who would walk away totally unscathed if every aspect of his or her life were investigated the way Stewart's ImClone trading was.
The lesson that any thinking person draws from the Stewart saga is that when the government asks questions, run for your lawyer and don't say a word. Had Stewart kept her mouth shut, she'd be OK.
I wanted to be a columnist so badly that I took a huge pay cut to leave Forbes, which wouldn't give me a column, and join Newsday, which wanted my column for its Sunday business section.
When I started writing a business column 15 years ago, I knew I'd found the perfect job for myself. As a columnist I could pick my own topic, do my own analysis, say what I wanted to say and attribute it to myself. Best of all, I could write in my own voice.
Don't commit to being a columnist unless you're willing to do it right. Report your behind off, so you have something original and useful to say. Say it in a way that will interest someone other than you, your family and your sources.
The column's worked out great for me. I've gotten a ton of ego satisfaction, had a lot of fun, won a batch of prizes and occasionally done some public good.
I grew up in an environment of jokes and sarcasm and puns. I talk that way, so I write that way.