Welcome to my disclosure statement! In an attempt to be thorough, this is going to sound a little like it is written by a wooden statue.
Though I identify primarily as a journalist, I have historically earned much (if not most) of my income from public speaking and from my own business ventures. These careers intertwine to make each other stronger (my business ventures inform my writing; my reporting and writing as a journalist educates me as a businessman; I get paid to speak about both of these, and use feedback from public speaking to inform my reporting and writing; and round we go.)
One of the core tenets of journalism is to ensure that the audience is not deceived about what they are seeing. I feel a strong duty to do this in not just my journalism, but ensure than anyone who engages with any of my work will not be deceived in any way about who I am or where I am coming from.
Though I attempt to make necessary disclosures of potential conflicts of interest in my individual works themselves, this disclosure statement is intended to document my history, current and past affiliations, and current business stakes for full transparency.
Though much of my writing is what I consider journalism (non-fiction chronicling and explaining of facts that attempts to 1] seek the truth as fully as possible; 2] seek to minimize harm; 3] be accountable and transparent; and 4] act independently), I also write what I consider non-journalism "content"—e.g. commentary, entertainment, and fictional television. I am often paid for these different kinds of writing, but have also often not been paid for my writing. I do not disclose what I have been paid within the context of each work of writing because that would be clumsy and weird. However, if I ever receive payment (whether monetary or some other form of payment, like a gift or dinner or a taxi fare) from the subject of one of my works of writing, I will disclose it within that piece. As a rule, I do not accept payment from subjects I write about in any form for my journalistic works, unless somehow what I am receiving is part of the story, in which case I disclose it in the story.
E.g. When an ice cream company offered me a bunch of free ice cream after I published a piece about it in GQ, I turned the offer down. (To the chagrin of all my friends!)
E.g. In a story for Fast Company about Samsung's secret celebrity phone conversion program, I became a member of the program and received a Samsung phone and "white glove" experience like the celebrities in the program. I explained this in the piece, and then went and paid for a new Samsung phone myself afterward.
This is my personal policy: Disclose when you are given anything by anyone other than the publication that you work for, and only accept offers for goods, services, and payment when doing so and disclosing it will 1] not offend or deceive the audience, and 2] make the story better than it would be otherwise.
I have often been paid by corporations, nonprofits, government organizations, and other groups to speak about my work and writing to their constituents. Sometimes these are organizations that I personally support. Sometimes they are not. In the same way that anyone, whether I support them or not, is welcome to read any of my published writing—or to purchase a copy of my books or magazine articles—for their own use, if an organization wishes to pay me to present these same ideas to a live or recorded audience, I will often be willing to do so. Simply because I have been paid to speak at an organization does not mean that I consider myself a supporter to that organization or am loyal to its owners or constituents, in the same way that such an organization purchasing a book of mine does not make me loyal to that organization.
As a rule, when I am paid to speak at an organization, I do not speak on behalf of that organization. I speak on behalf of myself, and in some cases my businesses (in which case I disclose this). There are some occasions where I will refuse to speak for a certain organization that I feel morally opposed to (e.g. a machine-gun manufacturer that markets to teenagers). However, I am generally okay with being allowed to express my ideas to organizations I don't agree with in an attempt to help change hearts and minds. (E.g. if the teenage machine-gun company will pay me for my time to speak to their employees about how they should stop marketing machine guns to teenagers, I would consider doing it!) (Real-life e.g.: I have in the past been paid to speak at energy companies about our obligation to protect the environment, admonishing them to be congruent in doing what they say they will do, rather than having "environment" be empty PR lines. If more energy companies want to pay me to say this sort of thing to their employees, I will likely accept. But I will refuse to be paid by an energy company to say something I don't believe, e.g. that burning fossil fuels into the atmosphere is a good idea.)
A comprehensive list of organizations that I have been paid to speak at can be obtained from my agent at APB Speakers.
(I will list other business engagements and affiliations below.)
I have spoken for free at many organizations and conferences (too many to count). I often get non-monetary benefit from these appearances in the form of publicity and brand awareness for myself and/or my businesses. It is hard to quantify the benefit for these kinds of appearances, but I hold myself to the same standard of accountability for these as if I were paid in cash.
3. Business & Investments
I own stock in three companies. One company that I co-founded in 2010 with two partners, Contently, in which I am a significant but minority shareholder (Contently provides marketing software and talent staffing to media companies and corporations); Tesla Motors (TSLA), which I bought at the company's IPO because I want to believe in the promise of a clean-energy future and I like the design of Tesla's cars; and Activision (ATVI), because I used to really like the game Starcraft.
In my business dealings with Contently, I met a great many investors and had the benefit of my company receiving investment from the following firms:
Founder Collective, Lightbank, Sigma Prime, Sigma West / Jackson Square Ventures, FF VC, Contour Ventures, Consigliere Brand Capital. (And about a dozen "angel" investors who bought stock from us. I do not have the full/ongoing list of these myself, but they are available from Contently's press department. I also no longer have the voting rights to decide myself on any new investors that may buy shares in the company between the time I write this and the time you read this. These are just the ones that I know about currently, but you can check with Contently for more at any time.)
I was never responsible for the financials of the company (thank God(s)). I had little to no affiliation with the investment funds, partners, or LPs in the list, with the exception of the three board members of Contently during my tenure at the company: Eric Paley of Founder Collective, Paul Flanigan of Sigma Prime, and Josh Breinlinger of Jackson Square Ventures. I have had zero control or influence on other investments these firms have made, nor who has invested in them.
4. every org. i have ever worked for or attended, that i can remember
In case it matters to anyone, here's a list of all the organizations I have been a part of, between school and employment:
Hillview Elementary (Ammon, Idaho), Fairview Elementary (Bonneville County, Idaho), Rocky Mountain Middle School (don't try these as my password reminders when you try to hack me; it won't work, you guys), Bonneville High School (Bonneville County, Idaho), Pacific Sunwear (circa age 16, mall job), Dominos Pizza (circa age 17, delivery driver job), Intermountain Gas Company (age 17; I dug holes and spray painted gas meters, yay!), Brigham Young – Idaho (undergraduate college), EZ-NET Tools (early 20s, web design company in Idaho), PolicyTech (early 20s, intern, Idaho software company), SEMvironment (early 20s, Idaho software company), Brave Media LLC (my own holding company for various freelance web design activities while I was in college and graduate school, which contracted for several dozen small businesses around the country), Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (grad school, NYC), Conde Nast, Mansueto Ventures, Gawker (through Gizmodo, though they still owe me money for the story I did for them), New Scientist, Mashable, Contently, Inc. (current stockholder), APB Speakers, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House. Maybe a few others I'm forgetting.
No offense to Dominos, but I don't have enduring or loyal ties to any of the places I have worked at or attended in the past, with the exception of Contently. I do not speak on behalf of the organizations I am currently affiliated with (like my publishers) unless I indicate it at the time I am speaking, and these organizations do not speak for me, as I am a tiny speck in each of their universes anyway. I do love the 100+ employees of Contently and hope the company can help put food on the table for them and many more for a long, long time.
5. Personal & Other
I do not identify with a particular political party, nor am I registered with any party. I have voted in local and national elections for Democrat, Independent, and Republican candidates. I generally lean socially liberal (on most issues) and generally think that Capital in the 21st Century is the most important book on economics we shouldn't have stopped paying attention to. I don't think more government is the solution to every problem, nor is less government. I think people need to talk about ideas more and point fingers and exclude each other less. I was a huge A. Hamilton fan before the musical, and think Thomas Jefferson was a great writer and vastly overrated president.
I was married once. I have no kids.
I'm about a 2–2.5 on the Kinsey scale.
I have a great respect for people who truly believe in God(s) and/or spirituality, and for those who do not and are true to themselves about it. I grew up in the LDS (Mormon) church, subsequently explored most of the world's great religions, and am currently religiously non-affiliated. Like Mulder, I want to believe.
I have no tonsils. That may be important at some point.