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Monday, The Business Press Maven had to put the unadulterated rot of a ridiculous, personality-driven puff profile on
CEO Frank Blake out of investors' misery. The
tongue bath was trying to pass as a piece on Home Depot, but it involved a lead about how Blake was a great humanitarian because when a subordinate told him there was no room at the lunch table, he did not fire the numskull on the spot. It also included a testament from an old law-school chum and approving talk about how Blake wears khakis and an orange apron.
I wrestled the article into submission, pointing out that Blake's fashion sense, or the fact that a guy he used to play quarters with thinks he's wicked cool, has no impact on actual strategies to save Home Depot, which were barely touched upon in the article.
So how do the business media react? How does
( DJ), in fact, react?
Look at this morning's
Wall Street Journal
and weep with me. In fact, will someone just smother me with a pillow? I can't take how bad the business media are anymore.
. Does the
canonize its CEO? No. In fact, its CEO isn't even mentioned.
How insane is this? Folks, under this unmentioned CEO's visionary leadership, Scripps is the only newspaper company on earth that is thriving. Just a few months ago, the stock was trading at an all-time high.
In fact (
( TRB) workers about to harness your retirement to the long-term fate of newspapers, do the words "cat food" mean anything to you?), this may be the only newspaper company that is in existence as a financially viable organization 10 years out.
Yes, in more than two dozen paragraphs, the
does not so much as mention the name of Kenneth Lowe, blessed be he who, as you know, The Business Press Maven named his
CEO of the Year for 2006. He qualified for the award for two reasons: He led a company in an industry that stank out loud, and he was all but ignored by the business media, cursed be them.
When I declared him winner, I referred to another
story -- this time in
-- about how well Scripps had done, by realizing that newspapers were the pits years ago and diversifying effectively. In that article, Lowe, the cause of that anticipation and diversification, was not even mentioned until the 13th paragraph. Other CEOs, I joked, would have seen that as grounds for libel.
Now he ain't even mentioned.
Mr. Lowe, The Business Press Maven has never given out public relations advice before, but since you are truly one of the only active CEOs I think is a genius, I'll make an exception. Dude, grab yourself a pair of khakis and be nice to common folk at the lunch table. Give a reporter the contact information for your college roommate. It's the only way to get a mention in today's business media. Where is that pillow?
We learned Tuesday that chain-store sales didn't immediately fall off a cliff. And if this is a bear market in housing (and it is), it just might unfold over a period of time with the occasional bit of good news.
In other words, just like The Business Press Maven
told you, the seminal event that was the subprime mortgage scandal ain't no seminal event.
How did I know?
Easy. Even though I believe real estate is troubled and will, in fact, do no better than inflation over the course of the next generation, in large part because of demographics that will be as unfavorable as they have been favorable in the past quarter-century, I knew subprime, declared an immediate and pivotal disaster only a month ago, was not as advertised.
Follow this simple rule: If a concern immediately comes to be a business-media obsession out of almost nowhere -- from Long Term Capital to
-- it won't be a pivotal event. This is doubly true when the events -- from a crummy hedge fund to a crummy lender -- lend themselves toward populist perspectives on the business media's part.
In both cases, the immediate/default storyline became the big, bad capitalist that would sink every single last little guy. See, while the business media fall immediately for a capitalist who is nice to a little guy at a lunch table, they always stand at the ready to pounce.
But reality is always more nuanced than the storyline of the smarmy capitalist doing well by doing bad to the rest of us, and good job to
The New Yorker
one of the laughable oversights of the subprime panic of 2007.
After rightfully pointing out that the backlash against the subprime lenders is "understandable" because their business practices can be sleazy, James Surowiecki gets to the overlooked point:
'Predatory lending' is a woefully inadequate explanation of the subprime turmoil. If subprime lending consisted only of lenders exploiting borrowers, after all, it would be hard to understand why so many lenders are going bankrupt. (Subprime lenders appear to have been predators in the sense that Wile E. Coyote was.)
Surowiecki points out that borrowers also got overconfident. That happens at the end of a hot market. But he also points out what few have: that while a significant minority of subprime borrowers is struggling, the majority is making it, and home ownership has risen.
Between the business media wringing their hands about subprime woes contributing to everything but global warming and politicians calling for regulations, this was a pitch-perfect note. No populist storylines. No overconfidence. But by the same token, no panic. Simply measured perspective. I can even forgive the fact that Ken Lowe wasn't mentioned in the story.
Please note that due to factors including low market capitalization and/or insufficient public float, we consider New Century to be a small-cap stock. You should be aware that such stocks are subject to more risk than stocks of larger companies, including greater volatility, lower liquidity and less publicly available information, and that postings such as this one can have an effect on their stock prices.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.
A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;
to send him an email.