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Media Oversimplify Loews' Earnings

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Loews (L - Get Report) reported second-quarter results Monday, and media outlets took turns clipping and killing the conglomerate, which competes with everyone from AIG (AIG) to Transocean (RIG).

The Associated Press was all too typical. It said in a headline: "Loews 2Q net income tumbles on hefty charge."

The article that followed found few, if any, redeeming qualities. Instead, the AP filled its take with verbs like "plunged," "fell" and "slipped." Ouch.

As tempting as it is to totally condemn companies in these days of disappearing economic growth and grim earnings even from stalwarts like McDonald's (MCD), Starbucks (SBUX) and Apple (AAPL), Loews had, beyond the write-off, a bit going for it.

Barron's did well to make its way beyond the impairment charge, capturing the legitimately positive in the process. Its headline spoke to this underlying complexity:

"Loews: More Than Meets the Eye."

Although the energy operations put Loews on the same shaky ground as competitors such as Exxon Mobil (XOM), there was undeniable good news elsewhere, emanating from the diversified holding company's insurer, CNA Financial (CNA), which reported gangbuster numbers. And even though the quarter's impairment charge came from Loews' drilling unit, Diamond Offshore (D), there were still signs of improvement at Diamond. Although Barron's didn't deny the negative, it worked in words like "improving" and "strength."

Here's the upshot: It's really easy to be reflexively negative these days, especially in the face of a big impairment charge, which make earnings appear dismal, at least at first glance. But even these days, appearances can be complex, and a second glance can do a body good.

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

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

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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