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They Just Don't Get Clorox!

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- When it comes to the reporting of merger rumors, it is too easy for a shaky premise to take shape in a headline. You need to look no further than an article this week in The New York Post (NWS - Get Report) about Clorox (CLX - Get Report). Other media outlets picked up and ran with the story and plenty on the Internet were braying about the possibility.

But there was little there to meet the eye. A quick look at the article holds a cautionary lesson.

First, we are told in the lead: "Clorox has caught the eye of at least one potential buyer, The Post has learned." The passive voice should raise a brow. Linguistically, it's a distancing mechanism. If there were several sources close to the negotiations actively asserting that Clorox might be gobbled up by a Japanese consumer product company, we'd hear it in an active voice. The Post's one source? Unnamed. Worse, we don't even get a sense of how--if at all--the source is involved in the proceedings. To believe such an article, you need a clue strewn about.

Later, we hear that Kao, the Japanese firm, "is looking at Clorox." Weak. Within industries, everyone "looks" at everyone. Moreover, in this case Carl Icahn put Clorox in play with a bid.

It's a pretty safe guess that everyone from Kimberly- Clark (KMB - Get Report) to Colgate Palmolive (CL - Get Report) to Procter & Gamble (PG - Get Report) is "looking at Clorox." At what level, and to what degree of seriousness, is another matter altogether.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page. For his "Business Press Maven� column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Fuchs appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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