CEO Shelby Bonnie resigned yesterday from CNET Networks (NASDAQ:CNET). Now that his hands are tainted with the confirmation of the stock options-backdating scandal that took place on his watch, it's the noble and just thing to do. It would have been easy to pin it all on a lower-ranking scapegoat and win back Wall Street's respect gradually, but this was kind of like how ripping a Band-Aid off in one, clean rip is easier than trying to do it slowly -- it will allow CNET to bounce back quicker.

I'll miss my quarterly chats with Shelby. We used to catch up after most financial reports; the last time was back in July. He was always friendly and accessible. As long as I agreed not to ask about buyout speculation or the stock options investigation, he was always open to exploring as much of his company as we had time for. Every call ended with an open invitation to fly out to California so we could meet.

I don't know what kind of role he may have played in all this. I don't care at this point. Some folks would assume the worst given the resignation, but, quite frankly, the point is moot now, and I respect that.

What I've been asking myself since yesterday's announcement is whether the cozy chatter with Shelby over the years blurred my judgment in analyzing the company. It's human nature to root for people you like. I've recommended CNET to Motley Fool Rule Breakers subscribers twice since the summer of 2005. Did I fail myself and my fellow Fools?

The problem with access
One of the many selling points in handing over your investing dollars to full-service brokerage firms is that they have research depth and a wide Rolodex. They're in constant contact with executives from the companies they cover. It sounds nice until you start looking around and see that mutual funds with connected managers can't beat an unmanaged fund index. Then you head out to our new Motley Fool CAPS stock-rating service to find individual investors running circles around the pros with their stock picks.

The best investors are ordinary people with extraordinary stock picks derived without ever crossing paths with a corporate bigwig.

Back in May, I took the family to Six Flags (NYSE:SIX). We enjoyed our day at New Jersey's Great Adventure, but I wasn't necessarily seeing it from the patron perspective. That's because I spent the morning being guided around the park by CEO Mark Shapiro. He explained the changes that he was aiming to achieve in his first season at the helm of the regional amusement park operator. We even took in a roller coaster ride.

To be fair, I was excited about the company's turnaround prospects long before I shook Mark's hand. So it pained me, a few months later, to have to write about what I felt was the company straying from its game plan. Mark got a hold of me and we went over a few of my points -- off the record. His arguments made sense for the most part. But the question remained: Was I a better investor with a firmer understanding after the off-the-record chat, or conversely, was my perspective more clouded?

Taking two steps back
Long-distance relationships may be challenging when it comes to romance, but they can work out perfectly for investors. Not knowing what goes on in the boardroom or being under the influence of corporate chieftains often allows the individual investor to have a more panoramic view than the Wall Street analyst or financial journalist who's in constant chatter with a CEO.

One of my best investments has been Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). I became a shareholder -- and subscriber -- in 2002. I've had the opportunity to interview CEO Reed Hastings a couple of times since then, but it was only done years after I'd bought in financially. In fact, it was my initial cynicism over the Netflix model that made it that more gratifying when I was able to tear down that wall myself and get in at a much lower price a few months after the IPO.

I don't consider myself cursed to have occasional access to CEOs. I just don't necessarily consider myself blessed, either.

I'm a cynic at heart. I thought shares of Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) were as overpriced as its lattes when I interviewed its CEO last year. He introduced some compelling arguments for international expansion, but it didn't necessarily compel me to change my opinion. I was wrong, by the way. The stock has appreciated by more than 35% since then. That's OK. I'd rather have confirmation that my judgment is clear even if it means missing out on an occasional winner.

As for CNET, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into when I recommended the stock for the second time back in June at $8.69 a share. The backdating allegations were there. The seeds for a lackluster 2006 were already planted. My theory was that the portfolio of CNET's properties was too valuable to be kept down for too long. Even with yesterday's slide, it's been a positive pick for Motley Fool Rule Breakers subscribers.

It all works out in the end, so enjoy your perspective. Trust your instincts. Believe what you see from the seats in the back, because there's too much subjectivity from the ringside seats. That's your investing advantage. Stick to it.

CNET is an active recommendation in the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service for high-octane growth stock investing. If you want to learn more, take advantage of the service's free 30-day trial.

Starbucks and Netflix are Stock Advisor selections.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been known to backdate a birthday present or two after a momentary lapse, but nothing worse. He does own shares in Netflix. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.