Maven: Hyperbolic Home Run

The media seem to view the market as having two possible directions: soaring or plunging.
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Why don't the business media just parboil The Business Press Maven in a cauldron this morning and get it over with? While you fire up the logs, I'll explain.

No matter what you read, watch or hear, the stock market is currently something we haven't seen in a generation: Simply and boringly (for everything except your wallet), It's a good stock-picker's market.

That's right. The market is not going to soar, and it won't swoon.

You own

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

, which reports good earnings, and you do well.

You own

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

, which doesn't report good earnings, and you don't do well.

Economic growth is steady and not overheated, inflation is (hopefully) contained, and the major indices will trudge higher on the strength of the good earnings, which will, in the end, be slightly more common than the bad.

But as articles on Thursday's 19th anniversary of the 1987 stock market crash abound and as flowery language attached to the

Dow's

piddling move above 12,000 display, the business media (generally young and never accused of having a long-term sense of business history) see only two routes for the market: a sharp downturn, via 1987, or a bubble ride up, circa the late 1990s.

You'd figure that the venerable

Wall Street Journal

might have a bead on our modest (though good) third way, but no.

Its

weigh-in on yesterday's 19.05-point, 0.2% close over 12,000?

"Home Run: Dow's First Close at 12,000."

Home run? The only place I should see that language is regarding the St. Louis Cardinals, and it kills me to even see that.

But about a 0.2% gain? Maybe the headline writer had just taken some meds and was a bit too happy.

Nope, here's the lead: "Powered by once-skeptical investors rediscovering a passion for stocks..."

A powerful home run! Dropped skepticism! A rediscovered passion for stocks! All to the tune of, uh, 19 points on a base of 12,000.

The point is not to merely honk and snort at the hyperbolic Wrong Way Corrigans of the business media, though it is fun.

These market direction stories, especially around Dow 12,000 and the anniversary of Black Monday, assume that one of two histories will repeat themselves: the off-to-the races 1990s or a steep downturn.

But nearly everything (let's just keep our eyes peeled for inflation) is pointing to a repeat of the bulk of stock market history.

The extremes get noticed and are getting factored way too heavily into current coverage. But most of the time when it comes to the stock market, we get what we're seeing: steady-as-she-goes, pick the Googles of the world, not the Yahoo!s, and you'll be fine.

As the eagles of the magazine industry gather for an annual conference in the dry heat of Arizona, Jon Friedman

writes this morning on

MarketWatch

that magazines are (10 years after the fact) taking their Web sites seriously.

More to the point, they see their Web sites on an equal footing to their magazines.

He is right: It's about time, and the late-to-the-party seriousness shows. What Friedman does not mention and what (as far as I can tell) all of the writing on the newspapers' lame earnings misses is the larger point, at least as far as newspapers are concerned.

(Full disclosure: I get paid by newspapers as well as Web sites like this one, so if you want to see a man bite the hand that feeds him, hey, read on.)

Anyhow, weekly magazines, from

Business Week

and

Forbes

to

Sports Illustrated

, have found new life on the Web, specifically by becoming daily publications.

Once relegated to weighing in late in the week with perspective, they have thrown themselves in to the day-to-day grind.

Many of the weaknesses of newspapers have been well documented. Just pick up a newspaper today and read all about it, in articles

like this or a million more just like it.

But online competition is frequently mentioned as a vague catch-all, sometimes just concerning advertising or, when it comes to published competition, with the implication that most of it is coming from people blogging in their slippers.

(For the record: I am currently in socks.)

Some of the most serious competition, though, is coming from serious quarters: quality weekly magazines with big readerships that can now rightly be considered daily publications.

Speaking of

Business Week

, there's a

story in the magazine hitting the stands today (and online, of course) on the great CEO exodus now taking place.

From

UnitedHealth

(UNH) - Get Report

to

Ford

(F) - Get Report

to

Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

,

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

and so on, CEOs are biting the dust left, right and middle.

The article doesn't mention it, but the trend showcases the fact that being a board member must be the most stable job in America.

Some of these board members -- I'm not naming names,

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

, so you don't have to worry -- have repeatedly picked executives who have brought disgrace on their company, and they haven't lost their jobs.

Maybe a revolving door that hits board members on the tush on their way out as often as it does CEOs would serve shareholders better.

Speaking of Hewlett-Packard, from its Peeping Tom management philosophy to Carly Fiorina rising from the dead, things couldn't have gone worse for the company in the recent past from a public-perception standpoint.

But, in the long haul and no matter who is standing the board room when it's all done, it sells a product on the basis of price and sense of cool.

Which is why, more than any legal proceeding at this point, its next advertising campaign is essential.

Well, it's out and

Slate

weighs in, giving it a B+. Jay Z and other celebrities are featured.

I would have used Rockwell, that one-hit wonder from the 1980s who sang "Somebody's Watching Me."

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.