If a web site doesn't exist yet, how do we debate its ethics?

I think the breaking point came shortly after I tossed up a placeholder graphic for the sharesleuth.com site, which doesn't go live until next month. The next morning, according to CNN.com transcripts, the anchors were discussing the site and Soledad O'Brien asked what was up there. Someone told her there was just a placeholder and she, in true journalistic style, responded, "Weird." That was the moment at which the growing and overwhelming coverage about sharesleuth.com completely and totally freaked me out.

Between Thursday and Saturday of this week, all the big players -- Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, Newsweek, CNN, MSNBC, etc. -- either picked up the AP story about the launch of sharesleuth.com or wrote their own version of it. Many of them referred to it as Mark Cuban's site and almost none of them contacted Chris about it.

As a result, the blogosphere chatter picked up. Many sites started debating the ethics of the venture. A lot of assumptions have been made. Predictions have been put out there. And all of this before the site actually exists.

In the past, I've been part of the PR machine, writing press releases, pushing for media placements, trying to manipulate the media messages for the benefit of my company or clients. (For the record, I hated it.) And, as a sometime journalist, I've been the one getting the word out.

But being on the other side of it, being on team sharesleuth.com (as the unofficial support staff) and watching the world spin a message we have no control over is a whole new lesson in powerlessness. And I'm not just support staff. I'm Mrs. sharesleuth.com. I'm a fierce, loyal and protective wife married to a man who is the most good person I've ever met, a person whose unflinching ethics are a constant irritation. So seeing people question the ethics of this venture does not make me do as my wise husband does, which is shrug and say, "The site will speak for itself." It makes me want to find them and back over them with my car.

I also tend to bristle at mentions of sharesleuth.com as Mark Cuban's web site. Don't get me wrong. I'm intensely grateful to Mr. Cuban. None of this would be happening without his investment. But sharesleuth.com emerged from Chris' decades-long passion about uncovering stock fraud and corporate malfeasance. He devised the idea for the site and approached Cuban, based on his blog postings.

Cuban liked the idea, tossing in the notion that there would be a possibility for future joint ventures with his multimedia company HDNet, and agreed to step in as majority partner, generously putting behind the project enough money to allow Chris to take a huge risk, stepping away from the traditional journalism he's done for twenty years and tackle a brave new media model.

When you live with someone who has spent more of his own spare time uncovering stock fraud than just about anything else, you have a different spin on their intentions. For years, working for a paper that didn't have the space or the interest in letting him investigate such things, Chris rose early and did his own research for hours every day before coming to work. And very often he came home and spent a few more hours on it in the evening.

My husband believes in journalism. He believes that, even as the current newspaper model seems to be flailing, there's still a place for journalism in the public interest. He believes that good old-fashioned gumshoe reporting can uncover bad guys and he hopes that doing so will help bring an end to innocent people being victimized. He thrives on the thrill of the chase and is rarely as giddy as when he digs up a new scandal or a crucial fact. This is his passion.

Several blogs, however, have picked up mostly on Mark Cuban's disclosure that he may use information Chris uncovers to influence his own investment actions. They're already debating the ethics involved. What they don't know or say -- perhaps because few have contacted Chris to ask -- is that, while this is true, Cuban's investment holdings won't have any influence on which stories Chris chooses to cover. Chris is the editor. He's got a one-track mind, here, and if you took one look at our life, you'd know it ain't profit motive.

Maybe this all sounds like the ramblings of a defensive wife. But I'm also a proud wife, a woman who knows that you can say a lot of things about my husband but if you question his ethics, you're so far off the mark it's laughable.

For Chris, this is not that big a deal. He's quietly confident that when the site emerges people will see it for what it is -- not a major, glitzy operation equal to the hype it's already received, but one man's quest to bring down the bad guys through responsible and thorough journalism. Maybe some people will be expecting more. I'm not sure what more there is.

But if any of you bloggers or media members out there stumble upon this post, sent here erroneously by some Google search gone awry, I ask the same thing any PR maven or journalist would insist upon...If you have any questions about sharesleuth.com, talk to Chris. You'd be amazed how much information you can gain just by going to the source.