They Just Don't Get Citigroup!

NEW YORK (TheStreet)--There is nothing the media indulges in more than breathless hyperbole. And so it was that when Citigroup ( C) chairman Richard Parsons announced that he would not run for reelection, the media went into overdrive declaring his departure all defining because it proved that Citigroup is in the total clear.

Fawning as usual, the media ignored the fact that its fate is hardly settled and, besides, Parsons has been on the board since 1996. Before declaring the man a genius and imbuing his departure with historic significance, it's probably worth mentioning that he's been at the ship's wheel, helping to steer the company into reefs, for the better part of a generation.

Instead, The Wall Street Journal headline went the hyperbolic and symbolic route. Their headline shouted to the skies that Parsons the genius would only leave with all systems go: "Citi Closes a Crisis Chapter," they cooed. Motley Fool did the same: "Citigroup Gets Over it and Moves On."

CNNMoney was appropriately matter-of-fact and nonchalant, not force feeding any great significance into Parsons' departure. The CNNMoney headline simply read: "Citi chairman Richard Parsons to step down." Just as good, the second sentence made clear that Parsons had been around since 1996, making it harder to view him as the hero others did and, best of all, CNNMoney put the company (and Parsons' limitedly effective tenure) into perspective with this gem of good sense: "Citi still has a long road ahead in its quest to transform itself from a "financial supermarket" into a leaner bank. Its shares have slipped more than 25% in the past year, and it badly missed estimates on earnings and revenue in January."

With apologies to The Wall Street Journal (and readers everywhere for mixing metaphors) you can't close a chapter on this long.
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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