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Business Reporter Loses Column

July 22, 1999

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ The San Jose Mercury News took away a business reporter’s column after she made $9,000 by taking advantage of a stock deal offered by a local executive.

The newspaper’s editors said Wednesday that Chris Nolan, whose ``Talk is Cheap″ column focused on Silicon Valley, had overstepped ethical boundaries.

Mercury News executive editor David Yarnold said Ms. Nolan had ``at a minimum, created the appearance of a conflict of interest for herself and the Mercury News and she failed to exercise a reasonable level of professional responsibility.″

In addition, Yarnold said, two editors involved in the case will face disciplinary action.

Ms. Nolan was transferred out of the business news section and suspended for a week without pay. Her new assignment was not disclosed.

The newspaper’s ethics policy says staffers shouldn’t make news decisions about companies in which they have a financial interest and advises business news staffers not to invest in local companies.

Ms. Nolan’s column was suspended last week after The Wall Street Journal reported she made $9,000 after buying Autoweb.com stock at a discount and selling her shares for a profit.

The chief executive of Autoweb.com is a close friend of Ms. Nolan’s and offered her the stock legally, though it was not an offer usually available to investors.

Ms. Nolan defended her actions, pointing out that she consulted an editor when considering the purchase in February and that she vowed not to write about Autoweb.com. She said her editors never told her not to proceed.

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