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Facebook Truth Lies in the Middle

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In its indomitable style, the media is pointing toward two equally radical extremes for Facebook's (FB - Get Report) earnings, due to be reported after the close of trading today.

On the one hand, we have The Associated Press. In an article dramatically titled "Facebook's day of reckoning," The AP portrays today's earnings as the end-all-and-be-all. You think the handing down of The Ten Commandments was a big deal? Just wait until we hear whether Facebook hit Wall Street's consensus estimate of 12 cents a share on revenue of $1.16 billion.

On the other, we have Forbes, sneering and dismissive about the significance of the coming report. Its headline? "Don't Pay Any Attention To Facebook's Q2 Earnings Report."

And so, according to the media, Facebook's earnings are of unrivaled importance and will define Facebook for the ages... or, uh, don't worry your pretty little head about them.

Who is right? Even asking that question gives the intellectual practice of gravitating to the extremes too much credit. The truth is in the middle ground that the media too often treats as tripwired.

In the moment, Facebook's earnings will be impactful. The company had a famously bumpy start as a public company, thanks to an unwholesome initial public offering. If they hit or exceed expectations, they'll find a bit of redemption in the short-run.

But this quarter is anything but company defining. Success or failure assures little for the long term. Here's what you always need to remember about Facebook and companies like it -- from LinkedIn (LNKD - Get Report) to Zynga (ZNGA - Get Report). In the grand scheme of things, they are new companies, and organizations in the larval stage set little in the way of long-term patterns. Even their industry (if you can even call social media that) is new, open to years of wholesale change.

Is Facebook's earnings report today going to count for something? Sure, it will have an inevitable impact in the coming days and weeks on the stock price and public perception. But long-term, Facebook is still an open book.

At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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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