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They Just Don't Get Bank of America!

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Using random Tweets, anonymous sources and plain old guesswork the media has, in these past days, weeks and months, attempted to keep traders up to date on how those Bank of America (BAC) firings are coming along. You remember those, right? They were announced back in September, 30,000 over a few years, designed to save the company money, boosting profits in the process.

But a funny thing often happens on the way to firing the promised number: the company never quite does it. Sure: they get the benefit of traders' excitement over the potential firings, but when they don't actually come through (firing is a messy business) the stock suffers.

That's why it's important to track the progress of the promised firings, which the media do with confusing results.

Reuters reported that Bank of America had cut a fraction of managing directors in Asia. Dealbreaker noted that an undetermined number of first-year investment banking analysts were "sent packing." There have also been reports of Bank of America resumes flooding competing banks, as employees anticipate mass rounds of firings.

Forbes wrote, "Bank of America has reportedly started the first phase of a massive layoff plan, while The Charlotte Business Journal wrote that the hometown company had indeed started that first phase, with employees working in technology and operations.

Then along came this gem of genius from TheStreet: "Bank of America Layoffs Have Barely Begun". How did TheStreet know? Well, rather than use Tweets or a diving rod, they checked out the 10-K. And wouldn't you know it? Wrote TheStreet: "Bank of America had 282,000 full-time employees at the end of 2011, according to the latest official tally...that is down just 2,000 from the end of 2009."

In its defense, Bank of America said they were also hiring. But that's a thin defense, a factor they don't showcase when they promise all the savings 30,000 firings allows. Moreover, as the article does well to point out--the bank stopped disclosing job count by division. Anytime a company shrouds information it used to share, you should arch a brow. With apologies to the wanton conjecture the media normally live and die by, nothing serves traders better than basic facts.

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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