Every day we see published in our financial papers extracts from the reports of directors, and also more or less lengthy reports of company meetings. The ordinary man has no other source of information than these as to how individual companies are progressing or retrograding. The majority of the annual reports published by directors contain but the meagrest information, and often perplex rather than enlighten shareholders. Many are extremely vague, simply because in the majority of cases the directors have really no knowledge to impart, or that which they could impart would be so opposed to their own private interests that it would be suicidal to publish it until dire necessity enforced it. These annual, reports are, of course, sent to the shareholders, but if the latter cannot attend the meetings they have to trust to the financial press for a report of them; and if the directors do not see their way, or do not think it prudent to pay for a report of their meetings, then, of course, the shareholders must rest satisfied with the little they have been told in the directors' reports. They likewise have to trust, in the majority of cases, to the financial press for the fortnightly or monthly reports of the mine-managers, and also to the cablegrams from the same individuals, the plea being that it would be far too expensive to post these to every shareholder. I have no intention of criticising this policy, for it does not come within the scope of this book. It is a purely domestic matter for mining shareholders, and if they are satisfied with it, then we of the press should be the last to complain of it. At any rate, the policy seems to have become a rigidly established one, and reform is exceedingly improbable.

But I am now speaking more in the interest and from the point of view of the man who is not a mining shareholder, yet who is desirous of investing or speculating in mining shares. How is he to be guided? How is he to get the information that will help him? Most men content themselves with asking the advice of others, and with writing to the editors of the financial press to recommend suitable shares. But what of those who are resolved to rely solely upon their own judgment? There are many such. There are only the financial papers to which they can go for information. Here they will find extracts from directors' reports, managers' reports, cablegrams, meetings, the mining market, price-lists, editorial comment, etc., but every report that is issued is not published, whilst the managers' reports and cablegrams are mostly unintelligible to those who have not followed them up to date. The price-lists are of help in ascertaining the market there is in individual shares, though of themselves they cannot give evidence of their intrinsic or prospective values. And as for editorial comment, there is a marked absence of this, as a rule, whilst even when it is indulged in it may be too vague and general, or else may be written from motives which would mislead readers rather than rightly guide them.

Therefore, the ordinary man reads the extracts from the directors' reports himself, and tries, from the information there given him, to form his own opinions. But even his own judgment, in the lack of knowledge and experience, may lead him astray, and he may invest in a worthless share, thinking it a valuable one, or pass by a valuable one, with the conviction that it was a worthless one. His difficulties are great, undoubtedly, and disinterested, competent editorial advice would be a boon to him. Moreover, his difficulties are made the greater because he has no opportunity of inspecting balance-sheets and profit and loss accounts, for the financial press could not afford the space to publish these. To show how difficult it is, I will select one or two reports that have recently been published in the daily papers, and will read and study them as an ordinary man would do.