WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- Alcoa's ( AA) earnings appeared bad, but look at them in the proper context: they were actually worse. The company is the cyclical of all cyclicals and the first to report during earnings season. So it's important to get coverage of the earnings right. Most of the business media did not.

Alcoa earned 15 cents a share versus expectations of 22 cents. That's bad. But it gets worse: just over a month ago, expectations were for 30 cents. Alcoa management, seeing business fading, talked them down. Over that short time period, though, earnings faded far more severely than even management's worst fears.

This is essential to mention front and center. It demonstrates that management has no bead on what is going on--or is acting deceptively, perhaps telling the truth (business is sinking) slowly. Or it means that business is unspooling in a narrow frame of a few weeks. None of these scenarios is good. That's why it's so important to highlight.

But many (including Bloomberg and Barron's) don't even mention the 30 cents expectations. You'd never know. Way down in its coverage, The New York Times refers to older expectations, but doesn't get specific. It's the specifics--30 cents on Sept 1--that carry weight. This isn't a matter of a few pennies many long months ago.

The Wall Street Journal ( NWS) gets it right. It mentions the earnings issue in the lead. This is big. And this is bad.
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.

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