Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher’s recent guest editing stint at a men’s magazine drew attention to a group of hot technology companies, landing the star in the hot seat for failing to mention he was an investor in most of them.
Tech-immersed Kutcher put together a special online edition of “Details” and wrote two features on technology companies, but didn’t disclose the fact that he is an investor in most of them. Punk’d? That’s what many journalists are feeling after learning about the misstep.
Gossip website Gawker pointed out the omission and called Kutcher on it, saying, “As an actor, Kutcher has been savvy; as an investor, he’s well connected; as a magazine editor, he’s terrible, completely selling out readers.”
Gawker points its disdain at Kutcher’s “Generation Next” and “The New Titans of Tech” features, containing profiles of companies. In one, Kutcher highlights a dozen emerging tech companies, eight of which he has invested in, and in the other, Kutcher writes about four companies, three of which he has made investments.
Fellow writers are not disputing the fact that the companies mentioned, including Flipboard, AirBnB and Foursquare, aren’t worthy to be named in the article, but are taking issue with Kutcher’s failure to disclose his investment status in the companies he wrote about.
Journalists are not encouraged to write about companies they invest in, and when there may be a possible conflict of interest, the writer is expected to disclose that information.
In response to the controversy, Details magazine editor Daniel Peres told The New York Times he doesn’t see the apparent omission as conflict of interesting.
“I can assure you that Ashton is not looking at our 500,000 readers as an opportunity to feather his nest,” said Peres.
The technologically proficient Kutcher helped “Details” magazine develop the online-only version, which is being promoted on websites and through apps like Facebook, Flipboard, Tumblr, and Twitter.
Both a Hollywood actor as well as a prominent investor in Silicon Valley, Kutcher was in the news earlier this month when it was announced he will play an Internet billionaire with a broken heart on “Two and a Half Men,” replacing Charlie Sheen in the ensemble cast.
The Schmidt storyline is expected to mirror Kutcher’s reality, as the actor focuses a great deal of attention and financial backing in several high-profile tech companies, such as Path and Skype.
Kutcher was also an early-adopter of social media, amassing over 7 million followers on Twitter alone, and this past May the actor launched his own Twitter app.
The actor has a degree of acumen and insight when it comes to the tech sector, but he may do well to share it in the future in a more transparent manner.