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We saw yesterday with Dell's (DELL) earnings report that even when the business media have the decency to mention an important smaller point that they regularly miss, the careless little devils leave out the biggest factor, the one that should never be missed.

Cue Dell, which reported earnings yesterday that were, in a word or two, totally lame.

Though Dell's revenues were up 11% -- even more than expected -- net income was down 17%.

You've heard the expression "not too shabby"? Well, this was -- in highly technical economic terms -- pretty shabby.

But the

Associated Press

, at the very bottom of a story covering the earnings, brings the savvy investor up to date on a small though not insignificant point -- a point, as The Business Press Maven grouses all the time, that the business media usually forget about.

How is good ol' Dell doing on those firings it announced a little while ago? Remember that in the perverse world of business, firings are, at least in the short run, a good source for cost savings -- something that Dell obviously needs.

Remember, too, that too often companies announce a batch of firings to come, the stock pops, but the company never gets around to firing that many -- or it has to offer sweetened departure deals, which means more write-offs.

The business media, for their part in the whole sordid mess, usually drop interest in the number the moment it's announced, and the stock runs higher. Details to follow? Puh-lease. Follow-up must be for wimps.


Associated Press

distinguishes itself with

this rare line

: "Dell said that operating expenses fell to their lowest point in six quarters and that the company would reach its goal of 8,900 jobs cut in the current third quarter. Since the target was set last year, Dell has already cut more than 8,500 workers."

Although they did the savvy investor a small favor there, the

Associated Press

managed to omit the biggest factor contributing to Dell's obvious need to cut prices to drive the top line: retail-store-level competition from the likes of




From the article, you wouldn't even know that H-P exists. It's not in there, even though the whole point of Dell's future now hinges on whether it can abandon its old direct-selling method, which is all but obsolete, and compete alongside powerhouses such as H-P in the brutal battleground of retail shelves in places such as

Best Buy






Will its price cuts grab market share, with profits regenerated when it budges prices back up? And then will sales hold? Or is Dell simply a direct marketer out of water in retail outlets? Is it now competing on price and price alone -- which is a one-way ticket to financial Palookaville?

The savvy investor can make either case, but you have to know the issue exists. And in the

Associated Press

, which ironically updates us on that smaller issue, there is no mention of the big issue: H-P.



was a fluke? Think again, savvy investor.


managed to get a tally on the progress of the firing in the fourth paragraph, commendable work indeed. But check out

the rest of the article

, if you have the stomach.It dedicates almost its entire self to passing along Dell's excuse that technology spending around the world is swirling around a toilet bowl. But guess what? Even though -- count 'em -- three reporters contributed to the story, none thought to mention retail store competition from the likes of Hewlett-Packard.

And that, my friends, is no way for The Business Press Maven to ride off into the weekend.

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;

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