There is a lot of talk these days about “fake news.”
The truth is, the media industry has been guilty of embellishment, sensationalism and over editorializing on certain subjects in forums when it’s supposed to be objective. Back in the late 1800s there was a term called yellow journalism to describe this occurrence.
We’ve obviously heard a lot of politicians complain lately about perceived inaccuracies in the media.
Well, now we have one of the nation’s largest, and most beleaguered, retailers complaining about unfair treatment in the media.
Sears Holdings Corp. CEO Edward Lampert is now complaining that the company is suffering from too much negative press. Lampert, mind you, is the hedge-fund investor who orchestrated the merger of the Sears and Kmart chains back in 2004. At that time, more than 10 years ago, there were plenty of skeptics. Walmart, Target and others had taken up so much market share and diluted the sales of the combined chains.
What has happened since has been pretty well publicized.
At first people thought it was purely a real estate play, and the company would sell off the well-placed assets it owns. That essentially never happened. Soon after, the Great Recession hit, and dismal Sears sales and earnings followed and continue to take place, as well as several rounds of store closures. During its most recent quarter, Sears’ same-store sales fell 11.9 percent year over year, more locations are reportedly being considered, and some agencies forecasting that bankruptcy could soon be in the company’s future.
On top of that, the company has put forth a lot of big-sounding plans that never really came to fruition. There was the 2010 launch of a Sears entity to sell excess real estate, but that didn’t materially help. Now Sears is tinkering with opening small-format appliance stores. And not even the Kardashians could save the day for the retailer.
On a basic level, sports and publicly traded businesses are somewhat easy to cover, at least much of the time, compared to other concepts. They both rely on numbers. These numbers can give one hard data on the success of a team or individual athlete, just as a company’s quarterly and annual reports can give a pretty clear picture of where a company is and where it could be headed.
It’s actually the media’s job to cover store closings and the financial health of large companies, especially when they are laying off thousands of people and impacting local economies. And don’t investors in retail real estate deserve to know how the shutting of stores will impact their businesses?
Apparently not. It would seem as if Lampert is suggesting that the only thing the media should cover is positive news about Sears.
However, of course, all of this was said before the company’s announcement this week that it is closing 66 more stores.
Well, when chains are opening stores, and doing well, the media covers that, too. And think of all the negative press that Walmart has dealt with over the years. That hasn’t put the world’s largest retailer into dire financial straits.
One thing the media does love is to sell advertising. Perhaps Sears should buy more ads, potentially ones that target Millennials and Baby Boomers, giving them reasons to actually go into the stores and not shop online at dozens of other Web sites that essentially sell the same products?
It would make more sense than blaming the media for covering never-ending bad news that actually isn’t fake.