WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- After too many unforced errors to count, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix ( NFLX) faced Wall Street at a conference and deployed humor to win 'em back.

Ah, humor. In the hands of an embattled CEO, here's what we can say about it: jokes are either a sign of intelligence, a way to face trouble and an indication of a humbled state...or a tool of avoidance, an attempt to obscure the more troubled reality.

But when it comes to Hastings telling knee-slappers about his mess-ups, which was it?

It was the former, at least as The Associated Press told it. Its headline, "Humbled Netlix CEO Still Thinking, Talking Big," implied that chastened state. The article made appreciative notes of his "quips."

That same humor, though, did not sit well with TheStreet. It ran an article entitled "Netflix CEO Finds This All Funny." The article allowed that Hastings' remarks were meant in jest, but added that: "at this time, Netflix should be restoring confidence to investors, not cracking jokes."

Who is right? Did the humor absolve Hastings? Or condemn him? Well, neither take is quite right. Humor, a tool of distraction for the trials and suffering in life, too often leads journalists to extremes. Hastings humor shouldn't have done the good it did in the AP story, imbuing it with a positive glow. At the same time, humor wasn't the pejorative TheStreet framed it as.

In reality, good analysis ignores the jokes altogether and gets at the underlying story which, in the case of Netflix, is decidedly unsettled.
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; click here to send him an email.

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