WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- After too many unforced errors to count, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix (NFLX - Get Report) faced Wall Street at a conference and deployed humor to win 'em back.
Ah, humor. In the hands of an embattled CEO, here's what we can say about it: jokes are either a sign of intelligence, a way to face trouble and an indication of a humbled state...or a tool of avoidance, an attempt to obscure the more troubled reality.
But when it comes to Hastings telling knee-slappers about his mess-ups, which was it?
It was the former, at least as The Associated Press told it. Its headline, "Humbled Netlix CEO Still Thinking, Talking Big," implied that chastened state. The article made appreciative notes of his "quips."That same humor, though, did not sit well with TheStreet. It ran an article entitled "Netflix CEO Finds This All Funny." The article allowed that Hastings' remarks were meant in jest, but added that: "at this time, Netflix should be restoring confidence to investors, not cracking jokes." Who is right? Did the humor absolve Hastings? Or condemn him? Well, neither take is quite right. Humor, a tool of distraction for the trials and suffering in life, too often leads journalists to extremes. Hastings humor shouldn't have done the good it did in the AP story, imbuing it with a positive glow. At the same time, humor wasn't the pejorative TheStreet framed it as. In reality, good analysis ignores the jokes altogether and gets at the underlying story which, in the case of Netflix, is decidedly unsettled.