Media Should Say No to 'No Comment'

The media should not allow a 'no comment' response without an explanation of why.
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If you wonder why The Business Press Maven had to develop a heart of surgical steel, you need look no further than the current Barron's to see how the business media underperforms, turning this watchdog for investors into a metal-hearted creature. Today's offense? Allowing "no comment" to stand as a response without an explanation

A Crock

Barron's

ran

a mild takedown of

Crocs

(CROX) - Get Report

this weekend. It laid out the argument of the shorts (revolving around the issues of fickleness and expansion, nothing new), even noting that a lot of shorts have simply given up in the face of the company's strength.

As a disclosure before going further, I must tell you that I will read anything there is on Crocs; I am nearly obsessed. The company has all the earmarks of the one-hit wonders I spoke about shorting

this weekend.

And yet sales have been so strong, outpacing expectation so many times, that I wouldn't even think about thinking about shorting it. Its product is a quirky one of high quality. The Business Press Maven family alone has probably purchased a dozen of the resin wonders.

And yet the footwear is a very particular look in a fickle industry. It has been knocked off by an increasingly large number of shoe manufacturers. Moreover, Crocs all but invented the category of holed plastic sandal it has made its mark on, but it is expanding into more traditional areas of the shoe and boot market, ones with greater competition.

And did I mention how fickle this industry is?

Well, if anyone can do it, Crocs can -- but it is going to be a big challenge, so I am interested in precisely what Crocs says, when and why.

Which is why I am so peeved that

Barron's

let Crocs off the hook and why I will now volunteer to do

Barron's

heavy lifting.

What I want to isolate came at the end of the first paragraph, right after a mention of the recent volume of insider selling. "Company executives,"

Barron's

wrote, "declined to speak with

Barron's

."

And? And nothing.

Barron's

left it.

Unlike

Barron's

, as a matter of policy, I can't ever let a "No Comment" pass. As an investor, neither should you.

Crocodile Wrestling

There is now a huge dangling thread. Crocs is a public company, and

Barron's

is one of the most renowned and revered publications. Crocs wouldn't talk? Well, why? Under what conditions? There are insights to be gained in knowing -- either about Crocs or the way the business media works.

Did Crocs specifically refuse to talk about the insider selling? Hmm. Was the refusal specific to

Barron's

? Why? The author, Christopher C. Williams? Again, why? Has Crocs gone to the mattresses entirely, which would be a most troublesome indicator for a public company?

Or was Williams running late and merely called Crocs too soon before deadline, not giving them enough time to get back to him? Should he have said, "Crocs could not be reached for comment. They were called several hours before deadline," instead? That, of course, would have put the shoemaker in a more positive light, and the journalist for the weekly publication, where there is a long lead time, in a less positive one.

In short, there is a lot to be gained in learning why a public company refused to comment publicly.

Barron's

did not do it for you, so The Business Press Maven will. It's about 5 a.m. New York time as I write, but later this morning, I'll call Crocs. When/if I hear back, I'll let you know why the company refused to speak to

Barron's

. I'll post the answer on

RealMoney's

Columnist Conversation or in my Wednesday column.

Ironically, the

Barron's

piece was no hit job. There was nothing new in it, and it ended on a negative, but mildly hedged, note:

"Crocs is no Cabbage Patch; indeed, it could carve a permanent place on the shoe shelves of presidents and the public. But investors who love their Crocs are likely to have an opportunity to buy the stock at lower prices. Maybe as soon as next summer."

Hopefully, the public will hear from Crocs before then.

Ambivalence Revisited

I normally don't like to pile on, so I wouldn't normally low-light another article in

Barron's

. Aw, who am I kidding? Piling on is a common occurrence with me. The pleasure is always mine.

I spoke about two items last week that

Barron's

managed to confuse into one. I

praised the business media for their ambivalence about

Yahoo!'s

(YHOO)

management change.

Who knows, at the point of appointment, if Yahoo!'s founder can turn things around? Let's at least wait to hear from him or watch his initial moves before declaring him Steve Jobs, revisited. Ambivalence, at this point, is fine.

In a separate piece, I criticized the business media for their tic of asserting, the moment a company stumbles, that it is a takeover candidate.

A takeover candidate, in the long run, must be undervalued -- and must have potential. Just undervalued? Well, in this particular market, sure. But if investors don't want to be left holding the bag, you would be well served to ignore this tic. Make sure a stumbling company has long-term, untapped potential before you act as if everyone will rush to buy.

This weekend,

Barron's

was ambivalent about Yahoo! Good? No. It was ambivalent about whether new management would effectively turn the company around -- or whether it would not, causing the company to tank and ... get taken over.

I'll keep searching for a heart of gold. But I'm getting old -- and I seem to be stuck with surgical steel.

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;

click here

to send him an email.