SABEW MEMBERS' RESPONSE

Last week, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers alerted members to language in the Securities and Exchange Commission's proposed Regulation FD that could allow companies to opt out from sending a traditional press release if they used other electronic means of distribution, such as telephone conference calls or web conferences. We touched a nerve. Below are 49 members' responses to the proposed regulation.

1. From Alan Goldstein, technology editor, Dallas Morning News:

I suppose this will be an obvious response, but it sounds like a disaster to me. There's no way journalists will have time to listen in on every conference call for every company every quarter. Text is a much faster method for reporters and assigning editors -- who certainly can't listen to every call -- to find the news in an announcement.

2. From Merrill Goozner, Chicago Tribune:

There should be no passive regulations on SEC disclosure, not in the information age. The SEC should require every publicly traded company to create e-mail notification lists for all their SEC documents and releases.

Any reporter, stockholder, or the public should be able to go to the company web site and add their name to this list, and the company should send out a bulk email when it files a new document. That way, everyone would get equal and immediate access to all disclosures.

Also, companies should be required to send out notifications of conferences, so investors and reporters would get timely information about how to plug into all analyst conference calls or stockholder conference calls.

3. From Jessico Lowell, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle:

I don't like the proposition because conference calls or web conferences are ephemeral. The difference in time zones may cause someone to miss what's taking place. Web conferences also throw up a technological barrier in some places, especially rural states, were the telecom infrastructure is not the zippiest. With a written release, there is at least something to follow up.

5. From Georgia Marudas, Deputy Business Editor, Baltimore Sun:

I think that proposal opens a big loophole for companies to make announcements that no one will know about. I can envision them saying we had a Web conference open to anyone to say our earnings would be 20 percent below projections or we have to restate earnings or whatever.

6. From Ed Silverman, The Newark Star-Ledger:

Maybe there's something I don't know or understand, but that 'or' gives me the impression that there's an escape hatch -- which ought to be closed shut. I suggest SABEW's commentary specify that the ambiguity created by the infamous 'or' is dangerous, because somewhere down the road someone will argue the rule ought to be interpreted differently.

I've reread the language and I'm wondering if we know the SEC's intent. Do we know if the agency really want to allow companies to avoid making a written record of their announcement at the time one is made?

If so, I find it troubling because it would suggest simply reading a statement out loud - but not necessarily memorializing it - allows a company to satisfy the proposed rule.

On the other hand, there's a practical matter here. By simply posting something on a Web site, a company could say it's fulfilled its obligation because a wide audience would have theoretical access to the web site.

But without a central clearinghouse - such as the wires provide when posting press releases - the public probably wouldn't know to direct its attention to the company web site in the first place.

I guess I'm worried about the rule and certainly, the lack of clarity about the very important subtleties also poses a lot of questions. Sounds like we need to query the SEC - and run a story in our respective business pages.

7. From John Engen, freelance journalist:

I think the proposed rule change stinks. Practically speaking, the ability to get press releases online - via news alert or whatever else - has become a crucial part of the dissemination process. I rely on, and so do many of my colleagues, releases as a key way to at least get started on our reporting.

Being told that there is some sort of vaguely defined press conference or Web cast would inherently favor those who follow a particular firm so closely that they have the time attend every one of those meetings. Ultimately, it could delay the dissemination of important news, resulting in an unlevel playing field, giving some investors a leg-up on others.

I'd also worry about the wording of the proposal. Who will define "reasonably" and "broad public access?" Why change what works now?

8. From Jim Zebora, Business Editor, The Advocate and Greenwich Time Newspapers:

The proposed rule allowing companies to drop written press releases is exclusionary. It means people will not be alerted to important company news in a timely and efficient manner. I agree that the public (press included) should have access to conference calls, web conferences and other methods of information dissemination from which now they are excluded often. But, to permit companies not to issue written releases invites cover-up of information to which shareholders and the public are entitled.

9. From Jo McIntyre, correspondent, dbusiness.com, McMinnville, OR:

The idea that companies can simply hold a press conference or Web conference in lieu of a written press release sounds like a bad idea. It is hard enough for investors and news organizations to get timely information right now from written press releases - imagine having the news disseminated by just a few news organizations like a wire service and a couple of bureaus. On the face of it, it sounds like a bad idea. I'm covering dozens of high-tech, small cap companies monthly for dbusiness.com and find the information released through Business Wire and other services to be a useful starting place for each story.

10. From Richard Papiernik, Nations Restaurant News:

I think it's something that has been coming down the road for a long time. I did some columns on the vigilance needed for companies now, which put out their press releases that give as little information as possible. I'm sure you also have gotten these releases that headline profits, or lead with profits, when in fact there are no profits. They often gloss over the fact that they are talking about profits BEFORE EXTRAORDINARY OR ONE-TIME EXPENSES.

And, sometimes you don't even see the real bottom line mentioned in the text of a release. A lot of people really don't go into the charts to find it. Lately, haven't you find the "safe harbor" disclaimers to be getting just as long or even longer than the release itself?

Anyway, there have to be strong regulations to spell out what has to be disclosed along with a standardized definition of many of the terms that define cash flow, margins etc. Maybe this is all designed to save money, time etc., but we really have got to jump in that these disclosure regulations don't allow reporting companies to throw up even more smoke and mirrors than many of them do now.

11. From Christian Wihtol, Business Editor, The Register-Guard, Eugene, OR:

Press releases should be mandatory. Most people still get the majority of their financial information from traditional mass news media (newspapers etc). Great majorities of investors don't have the time or technology to listen in on press conferences via Internet or toll-free lines etc. Allowing companies to avoid issuing press releases would give them a way to avoid alerting broad range of people to important news items.

12. From Werner Renberg, syndicated columnist:

I cannot believe that the Commission would propose NOT to base public disclosure first & foremost on a written press release. It uses them itself. Only today, I got two from them via AOL. Perhaps you got the same.

I wholeheartedly support you and the EC in resisting this. It should be stopped in its tracks, as these alternative media do not have the immediate access to as many people, and certainly anything communicated orally is susceptible to misunderstanding, which is something the SEC should not want when it comes to publicly traded securities.

Which reminds me. The memo said nothing about immediately, fully, and unambiguously communicating with shareholders. Surely, there is no substitute for reaching them via the printed word.

13. From Alan D. Abbey, senior business editor, Virtual Communities Inc.:

Terrible. That would cut out hundreds of news purveyors who are not in the loop of the major companies' calling lists or telephone conferences and rely on news releases as a "first warning." Furthermore, as a new Internet business news provider, this would reduce significantly the amount of information available to our users.

14. From Andrea Knox, business writer, Philadelphia Inquirer:

Press releases are indispensable. Why?

1. A press release i a completely accurate record of what a company is announcing. It's impossible for a reporter or securities analyst to take comprehensive notes on an audio presentation, which means published reports based on such announcements, would be subject to an increased risk of errors or omission.

2. A written release can be much more easily reviewed and referred to, which also goes to te issue of reducing errors and omissions in published reports.

3. A press release can be filed for future reference. (Yes, you could tape an audio presentation and file it, but how cumbersome.)

4. It takes only a few minutes to read material that might take 15 minutes to cover in an audio presentation.

15. From Tom Whitehurst, Business Editor, Corpus Christi Caller-Times:

This sounds like the answer to the famous question, if a tree falls in the forest ... This would be a terrible blow to public disclosure. SEC-required filings are obscure to most of us. Often we find out about significant SEC-required filings weeks or months after the fact. Right now, our newspaper is reporting information filed six weeks ago with the SEC. We are the first source in our market for this information, so to us this six-week-old information is breaking news. We did not know six weeks ago that an obscure startup company three states away would have significant plans for our community. Had this proposed rule been in effect, the company could have declared its intent to an audience not within our range and we would not have access to it now. We've got to stop this from happening.

I think it would be very detrimental to the public oversight of corporate performance for the SEC to allow companies to dispense with written press releases.

16. From David Holthaus, Business Editor, Cincinatti Post:

The public does not have direct access to either conference calls or web conferences. This regulation would limit the public's access to information about publicly traded companies.

17. From Catherine Maltezon, Zacks News Room, Chicago:

I am partial to the written press release and so do not like the proposal. In fact, "do not like" is putting it mildly. Is there anything we can do in protest?

18. From Joseph N. DiStefano, The Philadelphia Inquirer:

The rule appears to make it more difficult for investors to count on public disclosure of material information. How will they know if they're tuned into the right Web broadcasting service, or which brokers attended the most recent conference call?

19. From Hank Ezell, reporter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

I would hope the second alternative is the result of sloppy drafting. It sounds to me like an awful idea. From what you have provided, it appears that a company could get away with this "disclosure" without even announcing the conference call or web-conference. Clearly, that would make the "disclosure" a sham.

20. From Joan D. LaGuardia, staff writer, The News-Press, Fort Myers, FL:

At this point, I would not oppose this change. We increasingly rely on electronic telecommunications. I prefer a phone or e-mail notice rather than waiting for paper news release to be mailed.

21. From Lisa Biank, Cincinnati Enquirer:

If major public companies choose to release some information in releases, and some in conference calls, et cetera, they could control how less favorable news is disseminated. Press releases have traditionally served to inform reporters of the news, so they can prepare research and ask pointed questions. Will the conference calls eliminate that opportunity of preparation? I would like to know how journalists will be alerted to conference calls and web-conferences. Also, will conferences be recorded?

I predict that as long as I am aware of significant news breaking, I will be able to contact sources at my major companies in Cincinnati (such as Federated Department Stores and Kroger Co.), and report the news. At this point, I would like to know more about the process of these alternative disclosure methods.

22. From Michael Cody, Columbia Flier/Howard County Times, Columbia, MD:

I find this SEC proposal, to permit telephone or Internet conferences in lieu of written press releases, preposterous on at least two counts:

1. Despite the fact that more and more people own or have access to computers, a newspaper remains the shared and only readily available means of communication for all of us. A person can refer to a newspaper later, if he hears about a story. He cannot join a telephone press conference later, and might not have access to a computer.

2. Most people -- reporters included -- do not have the time to spend on hours of press conferences every day. It is part of our job to choose in which conferences to participate, and to digest information from those conferences and from press releases for our readers. The result of too much information, instead of the right amount of information, will be very little information made available, except to a select few.

23. From Craig Wolf, reporter, The Poughkeepsie Journal:

Small, retail investors don't have the time or money to fool around with news conferences, though it certainly is good that they can be added. Any diminution of the methods of sending out news on publicly traded companies is counter to the interests of investors.

The proposed text would appear to require some kind of notice. Would it be a press release that would announce the existence of some Web or teleconference? So why not just put the stuff in the notice to begin with? That is, you have to do a release anyway.

I see nothing positive in the proposal, and I wonder who's pushing it, and why.

24. From Darryl Christ, Associated Press:

My first reaction is negative because it would seem to shift the responsibility from the companies to the public.

25. From Del Jones, USA Today:

Much of what I used is archived data on Freeedgar.com and the like. If companies no longer have to make written announcements, it would be impossible to research that information months later. I have no objection to conferences, but there should be a written SEC document that could be accessed via the web.

26. From Jon Talton, Executive Business Editor, The Charlotte Observer:

If I understand the SEC rule about the disclosure, it sounds like trouble. If the conference calls were closed to the media, some material events might seep out much too late for average investors to act. Sometimes we are allowed in on conference calls, but sometimes not. At the least, it would appear to give big investors an information advantage.

27. From Lyle Niedens, senior reporter, Bridge News:

As a wire service reporter responsible for covering food, food retail and restaurant industries, and such a proposal alarms me. Reporters busy covering a variety of stories rely on news releases to alert them to breaking news concerning specific companies. As the SEC is trying to force companies into more disclosure, this legislation actually could have the opposite effect. Large news services unaware of a quickly organized conference call during a particular day and time could miss pertinent news that is important to investors.

Moreover, it is my assumption that companies may pick and choose when to use media releases based on the tone of the information they wish to disseminate. That is, companies may hastily choose to use a conference call -- without informing the media -- to issue a profit warning or other news that could damage its market value, while widely issuing news releases to trumpet favorable news.

This proposal makes little sense, it seems, at a time the SEC is trying to broaden company disclosure of pertinent investment information. It could effectively erase some strides media outlets have made in gaining access to quarterly conference calls and other company discussions with brokers. The proposal's wording of "reasonably designed to provide broad public access" would trigger endless debate about what forms of dissemination fall into that category -- and if the media is not aware of an impending web or conference call, will investors know it's happening?

Frankly, investors don't have time to peruse the web sites or call the investor relations department of every company in which they invest to find out whether they will have a conference call on a given day. And neither do I. News releases serve a purpose of giving everybody -- investors and the media alike -- the same chance to react to a particular event affecting a company. That even playing field could largely disappear without them.

28. From Charles D. Lunan, Managing Editor, dbusiness.com Fort Lauderdale, FL:

This raises concerns for us, since we rely heavily on press releases issued via PR Newswire and Businesswire to track such announcements. We are able to set up e-mail alerts with online news services that automate this process and keep us on top of our beat companies. Of course, we have reporters on the ground tracking these companies, but we can't rely on their spokespersons to call us individually and give us a heads up, particularly when they are preparing to release bad news.

As you know, companies usually disclose information via press releases two weeks before filing the appropriate form with the SEC, so the current system is critical.

The obvious flaw with this, as I read it here, is that if you do not have a reporter on hand to attend or monitor the Web conference at the appointed time, you miss an opportunity. Also, obviously, with the household penetration of PCs still hovering below 60 percent and ISP penetration being even lower, releasing news via the Web will exclude many people.

Here are some key questions to which we should seek answers:

1) How would the companies alert the public about the scheduling of these electronic conferences?

2) How much advance time would there be?

3) Would the conferences be recorded for access at a later date if someone was unable to attend the live conference?

4) Is it the companies' intention to use this to restrict press access to executives? They could argue that their executives already made themselves available at the Web conference and cannot give up anymore time.

29. From Jim Mitchell, business columnist, San Jose Mercury News:

It sounds terrible to me. Unless I misunderstand it, this means that if a company opens gives telephone access to some analyst meetings and press conferences, it doesn't need to send out a press release re information disclosed at those meetings. Same if it publishes the info on its web site.

Problem is: Who in the press will be able to monitor all such analyst meetings, press conferences and web sites to separate the wheat from the chaff? It would be extremely difficult for us to do that for the 500+ companies in Silicon Valley. A lot of important, newsworthy information will fall through the cracks, particularly if a company wants to hide it. I think investors -- and indeed the entire public -- will wind up much more poorly informed.

In addition, I think the public is better informed if companies must put certain information -- such as earnings and details of acquisitions - in writing. The communication is more precise and less likely to be misinterpreted.

30. From Roger Combs, business editor, Southwest Times Record

I am strongly opposed to any regulation that does not require written reports from a company.

First, the public is rarely given access to conference calls, and in fact, much ado has been made lately about companies talking only with analysts and leaving the general public and press out of the loop.

Second, it is quite possible that, with more than 7,000 publicly traded companies, conference calls would overlap, leaving the probability that the press and shareholders could not cover two or more conferences simultaneously.

Third, the written word may be quoted with a high degree of confidence and accuracy. The various states have a wide range of electronic recording laws that could prohibit reporters and shareholders from recording the conversation, which could result in mistakes or misunderstandings that could potentially harm a company.

Last, Should a rule like this be passed, it would be reasonable to expect that companies would be required to only contact shareholders, leaving the press out of the loop entirely.

We had a situation here where a public company did not provide a public release of its quarterly earnings. Subsequently, the NASD de-listed the company from the OTC-BB for failing to comply with the new reporting standards. Several stockholders saw their investments drop by more than 50 percent overnight with little warning and few avenues available to learn news of the company.

In my mind, the SEC should be requiring public companies to send a release to each shareholder -- either through snail mail or e-mail. Since that is not required, it is the duty and responsibility of the working press to keep the public informed.

It is difficult to track exactly when companies will report quarterly and annual earnings. I monitor several Web sites that attempt to track earnings reports, but often their information is in error because a company has chosen to release early or late for some reason known only to insiders.

A written/electronic news release is the only method that ensures reports will be received by the press and widely disseminated.

31. From Rick Alm, gaming & leisure industries reporter, The Kansas City Star:

No way. Does this mean I'm supposed to go traipsing around the Internet all day searching out new news releases from the hundreds of publicly traded companies on my beat? I certainly hope not. If companies cease taking the pro-active step of mailing/faxing/e-mailing or otherwise disseminating their news releases, then SEC must devise some alternative central shopping place where, at the very least, timely notice of companies that are posting news releases is available.

32. From Joan Zales, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO):

I am opposed to the change. We would definitely not get that information easily and be able to get it to the public. We need to fight the change.

33. From: Gary Shepherd, health-care editor, The Business Journal, Tampa Bay (Fla.)

It's a bad idea, pure and simple. Having a public company's WRITTEN view on events is an important part in the fact-gathering process. Sure, often companies mislead, obfuscate or avoid direct reporting on uncomfortable issues. Nevertheless, the company's WRITTEN account provides a record that would otherwise be difficult or, in some cases, impossible to obtain otherwise.

I urge SABEW to work to stop the proposed changes.

34. From: Rick Desloge, senior reporter, St. Louis Business Journal:

Generally, I applaud measures that allow companies to keep pace with the information age.

What is lacking in the summary SABEW distributed is any requirement for the public companies to distribute notices of press conferences by e-mail or any requirement to keep telephonic press conferences available for review.

The new regulations should address both of these items. Perhaps they should e-mail analysts and journalists notifying them how to obtain the required information. Also, on telephonic press conferences, frequently these vanish from public view within a couple of days.

35. From Jeff Bounds, Dallas Business Journal:

As it stands, public companies can get away with minimal disclosure of significant events, often by making short, vague references in footnotes of their SEC filings. At least with press releases, investors and the press have relatively timely information, and in writing to boot.

The conference-call proposal, if written poorly, could eliminate even those small advantages.

The major problem I see is that companies would have great power to restrict access to their calls. Consider this scenario: A tech company loses a major contract. It schedules a conference call that day by posting an item on its Web site. Only a few people see it and get to join in. The company then claims it doesn't have the capability of making a taped version of that available to the press or investors, leaving them to scramble to find out what's up.

Alternatively, a company could tell only people it favors about the conference call, and "forget" to inform analysts or reporters who have criticized it before.

I'm voicing my personal opinion here, and not that of my employer, American City Business Journals. But for what it's worth, if SABEW is planning to fight this proposal, I'm fully behind the effort.

36. From Marlene Star, managing editor, Investment News:

I think they (the SEC proposals) stink. I would be happy to sign a petition against them.

37. From Delbert Schafer, Tulsa World:

The proposed SEC regulation to allow publicly traded companies to drop issuance of press releases for announcements of significant occurrences is premature. We may be headed to an electronic, paperless society; but we aren't there at this time.

Besides, as a member of the print media I see no reason to favor the electronic types over print press releases. Yes, I know that we can receive email versions as easy as our Web, TV and radio colleagues, but let's stick with printed announcements, at least for the near future.

38. From Russell Garland, financial writer, Providence Journal:

I think the proposed SEC regulation contained is a bad idea. It injects too much wiggle room into what now is a straightforward requirement that forces companies to publicly disclose their plans in writing. We should strongly oppose it.

39. From John Edwards, Las Vegas Journal-Review:

This, obviously, is an awful idea. Public companies should provide more access to their disclosures not less. If they want to disclose something through a conference call (which may be restricted to analysts in some cases or not reported in advance to the general public), that's OK, as long as they also must issue a press release and, if appropriate, an 8K.

40. From Jenni Smith, staff writer, Arlington (Tex.) Morning News:

I am responding to the proposed rule that companies could opt out of doing a written press release in favor of telephone conferences or Web conferences. I don't like that. It doesn't bother me to have the press release on the Internet, but I need something in written form.

41. From Gary Taylor, deputy editor, Chemical News and Intelligence:

Thanks for the tip on this proposed change to the SEC rule. In sum, let me say I'm against it both as a journalist and as a citizen of the United States. Publication of announcements on the company web site alone can never be synonymous with public distribution because:

1) We are a long way from being a nation where everyone - including some news organizations (sad to say) - has access to the World Wide Web. This rule is like saying you must physically visit the company's headquarters to learn about changes.

2) It also is physically impossible for the US business press corps as a whole to visit the web site of every US company regularly enough to serve effectively as the public's window on financial activities relevant to the public's interest.

As a compromise, however, it should be noted that Internet technology has reached a stage where companies can distribute this information electronically without increased costs via email. Many company sites now allow anyone - media or non-media - to register for email distribution of press releases and other information. I have done this with a number of companies to make sure I do not miss announcements relevant to my readership in the chemical, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology industries. Perhaps the SEC could require this of any company that chooses to abandon press releases.

As a veteran business reporter, I have seen the distribution networks evolve from snail mail press releases to instant delivery of announcements by fax and email. I also have encountered a growing laziness among the public relations industry toward distributing press releases. Many are now simply saying, "It's on the web site."

Unfortunately, in a great many cases, web publication is delayed by the involvement of a third party--the webmaster -- who often has no concept of immediacy and simply posts announcements whenever the spirit moves. Meanwhile, the information officers are free to play golf or do whatever else it is they do while blaming the webmaster for the failure to distribute their press release. I fight this battle almost daily and on several occasions have contacted and confronted lazy webmasters who respond by pointing their finger at the PR officer and saying, "I am not charged with the responsibility for distribution of their press releases." This example of passing the buck represents another key reason why the SEC rule change is a step backward for the public as investors themselves get caught between the webmasters and the information providers, each blaming the other for distribution problems.

One more thing: I have witnessed a dangerous image transformation over the last two decades that seems to be at work in this situation. Many corporate and government leaders would like to paint the media as some sort of separate entity working for its own purposes. In truth, news organizations actually represent the public by providing a window through which the public can monitor issues of significance. In many cases, it is impossible for the public to attend an event -- instead the public sees the event with the help of the media. Often I find myself reminding interview subjects that I am the public's representative in their operations. This SEC rule change is another attempt to paint the media as a separate entity under the guise of bringing operations closer to a public that lacks both the access and the time to penetrate the corporate veil.

42. From Loretta J. Kalb, personal finance writer, The Sacramento Bee:

What a tragedy it would be to end this very basic form of public information. That would mean any member of the public who cannot be part of a conference call, or who does not have a computer, or who cannot schedule the time for a Web conference may well be out of luck. How many newspapers can have reporters standing by for an ill-timed Web conference? Or the East Coast morning phone call? Like it or not, reading information about significant upcoming company information remains a primary and chief aid for making decisions about coverage and even about participating in such conferences.

Is the press release really such an onerous requirement?

43. From Carl Cronan, staff writer, The Business Journal (Tampa Bay, Fla.):

The proposal to eliminate press releases on significant events flies in the face of the same reforms the SEC implemented last year.

Plain English forced companies to simplify the gobbledygook they were issuing in documents in the interest of making investors better informed. If they cut out releases, as I see it, that just creates one more way for companies to pull a fast one on investors (and the rest of the general public), then claim that we should have gone and found it in the SEC filings on our own.

Plus, I also get the feeling it's a cost-cutting move on the part of some firms to eliminate their press relations positions altogether and, presumably, avoid having to talk to business reporters ever again.

In short, Regulation FD is a bad idea and should be punted. Surely, the SEC can figure that out on their own, given all the time they put into Plain English before.

44. From: Alan Feigenbaum, Personal-Finance Reporter, CBS MarketWatch

Of course it's ridiculous, but as journalists, perhaps we shouldn't be so up in arms. Maybe this is a secret SEC plan to help us, because this will undoubtedly spawn a new (electronic) cottage industry of online sites that will provide subscriber access to complete transcribed text of all the various conference calls and other alternatives to press releases that companies might use. Furthermore, it will add more jobs by requiring additional journalists to attend these Net conferences and ask pointed questions.

In other words, in addition to complaining here, I think it's likely that the necessary journalism business response to all this will ultimately force companies to include press releases among their standard tools for providing information.

Finally, I'm definitely not pro-business, but lets give companies some credit for opening up some of their analyst calls and other formerly closed forums--even if their intent is to spin to a wider audience. I think we've seen that there are too many sharp journalists who are adept at "unspinning" the raw spin into investigative gold.

45. From: Lynn Gomez, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

This seems like a no-brainer but I'm formally casting my vote against this proposal. It boggles the mind to think that this would be satisfactory.

46. From: Si Cantwell, business editor, Star-News in Wilmington, N.C., circ. about 55,000.

I think businesses should still be required to issue traditional press releases about earnings and other matters of interest to investors (and local employees).

I think it would be too easy to overlook a Web "virtual release," and I never mess with those lengthy conference calls.

I would urge SABEW to lobby the SEC to keep the present reporting requirement while, of course, encouraging any additional avenues of disseminating information that technology might present.

47. From: Brian Kaberline, Editor, Kansas City Business Journal

I'm opposed to the proposed regulation regarding the dissemination of information by public companies. My concern is that it assumes that releasing information by teleconference or Web conference is as accessible as paper press releases. I don't believe this is the case at this time. For now, there is a real digital divide.

48. From Gail DeGeorge, business editor, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

This strikes me as a very dangerous position by the SEC and somewhat puzzling, given [Arthur] Levitt's overall stance as trying to make the securities industry more accountable/responsive to the public. If I understand this correctly, we would be not get any written releases but would have to rely on conference calls - which isn't acceptable and is deterimental to the public. Even web releases aren't sufficient, in my view. I particularly see a problem w/earnings releases/conference calls.

49. From: Jim Parker, Business reporter, The Post and Courier (Charleston S.C.)

This is in regards to the new SEC proposal on information disclosures by publicly traded companies. I'm opposed to the proposed changes if it allows companies to use conference calls or web-conference to disclose information instead of written releases. For one, it does nothing on its surface to enhance a free and open dissemination of information. Second, it doesn't automatically put the information on the record as a document you can retrieve and look at later on. Third, even though the public may be invited to the conferences, it doesn't mean they are necessarily going to know about it (there seems to be no language in the proposal on getting the word out). Having said that, the idea of a conference call, press conference or web-conference is a good one, particularly if it's interactive where reporters, investors, etc. can ask questions. But it should support, not replace, the written release. Or, transcripts of the conferences should be made public.