The Washington Times - January 14, 2009, 06:09PM

The news that Apple CEO Steve Jobs is taking a medical leave of absence is ricocheting around the globe even as I type. Reaction around the blogosphere and social media worlds is coming in fast and furious.

Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur, author and perhaps the original Mac “evangelist,” and a colleague of Jobs’ at Apple, offered this to his following on Facebook: “Lots of press calls about Steve. My [two cents:] He’s done more for a company’s shareholders & customers than any other CEO ever so leave him alone.”

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Peter Kastner, co-founder of analyst firm Aberdeen Group, told his Facebook following that he’s “watching Apple stock crater as poor Steve Jobs takes an LOA.” (That may or may not be wholly correct: the stock is down $5.30 in after-hours trading, or 6.21 percent as of 5:56 p.m. But is that a “crater”? And, how it’ll do tomorrow is anyone’s guess.)

And Bob LeVitus, who’s forgotten more about Mac technology than I might ever learn, speaks for many when he declared (again, via Facebook): “Wow… This is such weird news… All I can say is that I hope Steve recovers quickly and completely.”

One key reason that the stock is gyrating a bit and why so many people are commenting about this is that the health of a CEO can often be seen as being what the Securities and Exchange Commission calls “material” to a company’s performance. It’s the kind of news that should be shared with all shareholders at the same time, something Wired magazine investigated last year, when news of Mr. Jobs’ health issues first surfaced.

A long time ago, I had personal experience of this: early in my stint as editor of a telecom industry-watching newsletter, I learned that the then-chairman of AT&T, Charles Brown, had been ill for a couple of weeks. The company deflected, but ultimately it came out that Mr. Brown was suffering from colon cancer, a disease which took his life two days before the firm’s annual meeting that year. Robert E. Allen was elevated to the number-one spot, setting off a chain of events which may have led to other monumental changes at AT&T, as former Washington Times business reporter Leslie Cauley brilliantly documented in her book, “End of the Line: The Rise and Fall of AT&T.”

I am not suggesting anything similar as far as Mr. Jobs is concerned. However, there is a reason why such matters are important — apart from the general concern about a true industry visionary.