When most of the coverage of a particular issue or event goes one way, it's important to pore over the one or two examples that go the other way. Are these reports detecting something the majority is missing? Cleverly pulling threads out of events most overlooked? Are they being apologists for those in power? Rooting for the hometown team? Maybe they're being different just for the sake of being different. Or maybe they're just plain nuts.
And so it was that The Business Press Maven read about the Big Three's second go at begging Congress for cash.
want billions, but the public, Congress and time do not appear to be on their side. This was captured almost across the board in the headlines of publications both big and small.
The Wall Street Journal
in a headline: "
The New York Times
New York Post
, for its ever lively part, went with a more entertaining version of the same. Its cover shouted "
Rust in Peace, Bush Warns Detroit
," and the accompanying story inside said: "BIG 3 STOOGES: CEO FOLLIES AS BUSH WARNS OF WA$TE."
You get the general picture, right? The Big Three is facing a heavy lift in shaking the government down for money, and it's not going well.
Or is it? Guess how the Big Three's hometown paper covered the same issue? Here is the
Detroit Free Press
in a headline, which ran counter to the majority's take on the hearings: "
CEOs make 2nd pitch for $34-billion loan: Senators appear to budge on request
Its lead did the same: "Detroit automakers and the UAW made headway Thursday in their bid for government aid they say they need to survive, as key senators said they would consider approving at least some of the $34 billion the industry wants."
We'll leave this one alone out of respect for the desperate. You can't take a hometown news outlet's spin too seriously in a situation like this. The very existence of the
Detroit Free Press
is based in no small measure on the survival of the Big Three in some recognizable state.
But let's take a look at the
, which weighed in with something even more positive: "
did put its finger on a slight uptick in Big Three performance and the slightly warmer Washington greeting they got in response. But as much as I like to throw my opinion behind the minority (the majority's conventional wisdom, especially in the echo chamber that is both Wall Street and the financial media, often turns on a dime and catches up), I think the
is making too much of the low expectations the Big Three set their first go-round.
In the article's second sentence, the excitable
talks about how "members of Congress gave the carmakers a far warmer welcome than just two weeks ago." The article also termed the second meeting a "rapprochement."
It's true that several, such as Sen. Christopher Dodd, did say more-conciliatory things this time around. But no article comparing this meeting with the previous one can be complete without a good mention of just how disastrous the previous one was. From the private jet fiasco to the refusals to accept oversight or salary decreases, the Big Three seemed at their self-destructive best last time.
This time, they left the private jets in the hanger and showed some modesty, which did soften Washington's response. Senators were not handed easy and instant fodder to grandstand and pander over.
By these lame standards, this time went better. But it was all a matter of perspective. And as much as The Business Press Maven likes a contrary opinion, seeing this testimony as evidence of bailout talks "gathering speed" is about as overdone as flying on a private jet to beg for charity.
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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