WHEN I CAME to DIRECTORS & BOARDS in 1981, I had never written a single word about a board of directors. I had spent my first five years as a journalist writing for and editing several different types of business publications -- employee newsletters for a supermarket company, a monthly trade tabloid for the communications industry, a weekly business magazine in Philadelphia. At that time, business journalism was still a bit of a backwater area. There were no classes devoted to it at the journalism school I attended. The business sections of most newspapers were skimpy. The Wall Street Journal was a single-section paper with not only the stock tables but also its stories in tiny type, almost as small as you'd find in an annual report footnote.
It surprises me now when I realize that I had never worked on a piece about a corporate board because I can't think of another business topic that I did not write on or assign a story on. I published a lot of stories on banking and finance, real estate, marketing, health care, education, economic development, business strategy, and a fair amount of fluffier stuff, like the assignment I gave myself to write about the business of running a pro football team's cheerleading squad. But not a word about boards. In the 1970s, even to a journalist's eye, the board was in the deep background. You didn't really think about trying to interview a board member for a story you were working on, or bringing a board angle into a news report. I guess it didn't seem like the board was part of the action.
Early in 1981 I got a call out of the blue from The Hay Group. The consulting firm had just acquired DIRECTORS & BOARDS and another journal, Mergers & Acquisitions, from their founder Stanley Foster Reed, an M&A consultant and publishing entrepreneur. I was happy cranking out the weekly business magazine that I was then working for, but I agreed to visit and see what they had in mind for a new publishing unit of the firm that they wanted to start up with these two journals. After several meetings and conversations extending over a period of two or three months, I finally told them I wasn't interested. I thought the journals were much too esoteric for my taste, and that the writing I was doing on office space leasing and bank lending and ad account switches and the other daily doings of a metropolitan business community had more relevancy than putting out a journal devoted to corporate governance, whatever that was.