Cablevision Coverage: Fair and Foul

The AP nailed this story, while the Wall Street Journal missed by a wide mark.
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It nearly kills The Business Press Maven to openly defend Cablevision (CVC) . I could catalogue grievances until the cows come home, but just say that in my incarnation as a sports writer, they almost had me arrested.

The Business Press Maven has little interest in spending time in the prison yard, so I hold a grudge.

But Cablevision is an important company in its own right and its earnings are essential for what it might indicate for everyone from

Comcast

(CMCSA) - Get Report

to

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

to

Tribune

(TRB)

. (In an irony to all nearly arrested reporters, Cablevision, one of the nation's least public public companies,

might be buying Newsday

.)

Here's the deal, though: Cablevision reported on Thursday. It was a bit of a convoluted report, with losses widening but revenue climbing. To the best of my knowledge, everyone mentioned what was front and center: the bottom line was marred by a $104.9 derivative loss.

They Just Don't Get Cablevision!

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Ouch. This is the Age of Write-Off.

Here was the curiosity, though. While this year's loss was universally mentioned, not everyone mentioned that last year's first-quarter contained a $65 million derivative gain! Holy $65 million oversight, Batman. Mentioning a one-time $105 million dollar goof without mentioning a comparable one-time gain makes it look like Cablevision did worse than it did.

Here are two representative examples of the reporting and (I love when this happens) the

wire service

got it right, while the vaunted

Wall Street Journal

flubbed it

. Big time.

To begin, I present to you sentence number five in the most excellent Associated Press story, which makes the entire situation clear as can be:

"The bottom line was affected, however, by $104.9 million in losses from financial derivative contracts, which compared with comparable gains in that category of $65.1 million in the year-ago period."

That article was called "Cablevision 1Q loss widens, but revenue rises 10 percent."

The Wall Street Journal article has almost the same headline, "Cablevision Loss Widens Despite Gains," but guess what?

Dust that sucker for evidence of last quarters $65 million gain and you'll come up empty.

Perhaps the Journal was distracted. Charges and gains are always a bit confusing and Cablevision has a lot to write about, from the possible deal with Tribune to buy Newsday, with the sidebar of the Dolans beating out Rupert Murdoch's

News Corp.

(NWS) - Get Report

, which of course owns said WSJ, to possible encroaching cable competition from Verizon's FiOS TV.

But $65 million is a lot of money. It's more than The Business Press Maven makes in two entire years. And if you mention this quarter's loss, you have to mention last quarter's gain.

What's fair is fair. Even for a company that sometimes commits fouls.

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

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