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.