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Stop Apologizing for Failed CEOs

Well, we're used to seeing excited headlines about the wonderfulness and pure adorableness of CEOs in newspapers ... but we are not used to seeing excited headlines about newspapers.

That's why my spirits were so lifted when I saw headlines like this about Lee Enterprises (LEE), the publisher of dozens of daily newspapers, Thursday: Lee's quarterly profit rises, shares jump, and Lee Rises, 4Q Profit Nearly Doubles, which came with a redundantly over-the-top subheadline: "Shares of Lee Enterprises Climb As 4th-Quarter Profit Nearly Doubles."

Anyhow, hold the applause. There was an extra week in the quarter, and without it, sales would have fallen. There were tax benefits and, outside of that, almost all the current indicators (declining subscribers, broad-based weakness in almost everything except for a slight sign of life in online advertising numbers, when online newspaper viewing only sets newspapers on a collision course with their much higher margin newspaper subscribers.)

Some of these facts appeared in the articles, which makes the headlines all the more egregious. Remember: Don't be a headline reader. In all, Lee's quarter was not as horrendous as some we've seen in the newspaper business, but it merited those supportive headlines as much as Chuck Prince.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children. Fuchs appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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