What the Nation's Leading Papers Said This Week


by Eric Hler Many companies hurt investors by failing to accurately explain what they do and how. The Washington Post's Fred Barbash says a new style of corporate reporting would make disclosures more meaningful, and perhaps more accurate. Another positive trend: Princeton University has found several ways to let middle income families enroll their offspring but keep their assets.

Why does clear disclosure matter? Consider the case of Baptist Foundation of America. Its failure was predicted by a CPA reviewing a foundation offer for an investor. But The Arizona Republic says nobody else saw the signs she saw -- even after she revealed them.

The Denver Post shows what a top writer can do on the biz beat: Michael Booth brings the stock slump home by probing the morale of Colorado telecom workers. They've lost lots of money in their retirement plans, leaving them angry that they've given their lives to companies that don't seem to be succeeding.

CALIFORNIA DOUBLE-WHAMMY. Yield isn't just what you do when driving. Dividends are out of style, says The New York Times, but holders of sliding stocks will soon clamor to have them restored. Also: As toymakers venture into robotics, they're struggling to create not just machines, but personalities, with a blend of engineering, puppetry, and psychology.

California's energy crisis has hobbled industrial productivity and personal convenience. Now it threatens the state's air quality, says The Los Angeles Times, because so many companies are using diesel-powered emergency generators.

As someone who never got used to Esso's new name, I sympathize with Detroiters who don't want to see Hudson's department stores disappear. The Detroit News explains that the stores aren't going anywhere, just their name -- owner Target Corp. will rebrand them Marshall Field's. That's sparking debate about regional brands, which consumers prefer, vs. national brands, which corporate owners prefer.

Perhaps contemplating its own future, The Dallas Morning News had a piece on Spanish-language advertising during the Latin Grammy Awards on CBS. Sources agreed that the strength of Latino culture in the U.S. made a timely move, but gave conflicting interpretations of whether Latino consumers consider themselves part of a larger, English-speaking nation.

RETAILING STAR? The Chicago Tribune brings us twin surprises: Not only is the U.S. auto industry in pretty good shape heading into a slowdown, but manufacturers are again embracing the Midwest for production sites.

Perhaps there's a typo here somewhere. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel says gyms are differentiating themselves to attract clientele -- gay-friendly, women-friendly, Christian-friendly, etc. But it singles out one gym for recognition even though its membership increased more than seven times in three years, to 3,000 customers, while is revenue rose only 2.5 times, to $1 million. Sounds like mismanagement to me.

What downturn? Clothier Jos. A. Bank is expanding by putting quality first while many competitors are contracting, says The Baltimore Sun. By quality Bank means not just the threads, but the way they're sold and the way the company and its salesforce interpret societal trends.

OVERPAYING ON eBAY. For many others, the downturn is very real. The Philadelphia Inquirer visits a liquidator whose hot items include medical equipment, christening gowns, and computer servers -- all castoffs from failed companies. One shocking-yet-unsurprising observation: People overpay on eBay.

Michael Dertouzos, says The Boston Globe, thinks computing should be as transparent as air. (Let's hope he's not referring to the air here in Denver, which isn't transparent most days.) The MIT whiz shows Globe readers some tricks that "human-centered computing" can play and looks to the day when a single handheld device combines the functions of the half-dozen many of us use now.

Build an infrastructure and they will come. Don't bother and they may come anyway. The Minneapolis Star Tribune says the city of Eden Prairie has become a successful high-tech center without tax incentives or any special urban planning. Nobody really knows why Eden Prairie took off -- an argument, perhaps, for laissez-faire.

For every chairman there must be a board, though Americans could be forgiven for forgetting there are Federal Reserve governors other than Alan Greenspan. It's time to take notice, says The St. Paul Pioneer Press, because President Bush could get to appoint as many as five of the seven members during his term. But he probably won't try to use the openings to influence policy, says columnist Edward Lotterman.

Okay, stock analysts: starting doing some of the digging you claim to do on behalf of investors -- by shopping. A laid-off Amazon.com customer-service worker issued that dare, via The Seattle Times, to challenge Jeff Bezos' contention that his dismissal of 1,300 won't affect service. Analysts are waiting to see how the company adjusts to boomless times, the article says.

In medicine, the only rational response to the words "risk" and "sharing" in the same sentence is to run. The state of Wisconsin says pharmacies overbilled it in a cost-sharing plan for needy patients; the pharmacies say the state's billing system is so confusing it shouldn't blame them for problems. It's patients who suffer, of course, as pharmacies drop out of the plan, reports The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. H??bler reports for The Denver Post


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