The crazy task of reporting quarterly numbers

By |  August 3, 2012

My wife works at a newspaper, and she was telling me that a young business reporter had written a long story about a local bank’s second-quarter earnings — taking all of the information directly from the bank’s earnings report. The newspaper ran the reporter’s story in full, despite having access to a wire-service story with professional analysis of the report. She couldn’t understand that decision, and I felt her pain.

When companies such as Vulcan Materials and Martin Marietta announce their quarterly earnings, we do our best to convey information from the report in an unbiased way. But quarterly reports are written with a high level of spin that would make even a politician envious. The companies do their best to draw your attention to the good news and away from the bad.

Perhaps earnings were up from the same quarter the prior year but down from the previous quarter. The company will emphasize only the positive. And even professional business writers interpret the numbers in conflicting ways when putting them into words the rest of us can understand.

Consider these two headlines regarding Vulcan Materials’ recent quarterly report:
• CBS News: “Vulcan Materials 2Q loss swells”
• Zacks Equity Research: “Vulcan loss narrows”

We’ll continue to post news stories when these big producers announce their earnings. We’ll quote the CEOs. And we’ll include a link to the full report so you can find the information that matters most to you.

About the Author:

Darren Constantino is an editor of Pit & Quarry magazine. He can be reached at

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