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Jerry Lanson Headshot

Facebook's IPO Has Journalism Pack Salivating

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Pop the corks. Light the sparklers. Shoot the fireworks. But please. Enough news already about Facebook's IPO.

I don't care that Mark Zuckerberg turned 28 this week. I don't care if he's half the age of most American CEOs. And I don't care that Facebook's IPO will send the company's value into the stratosphere (first, it was $80 billion, then $100 billion, now nearly $105 billion and, if The Takeaway knows anything, it could soar to $150 billion or maybe more before all the excitement is over).

Make that before the hype is over. Facebook's public offering is everywhere -- on the web, on the radio, on TV. Does the public really care as much as the press seems to want it to?

"Facebook's initial public offering will be the largest and perhaps the most highly anticipated Internet deal in history," wrote CNBC in a piece reprinted in the Christian Science Monitor.

As I write, a corner of that deal is the lead story on Huffington Post Business and No. 2 on the site's homepage ("General Motors Says Facebook Ads Ineffective, Pulls Campaign from the Site..."). It was the subject of a long segment on NPR's Takeway Tuesday morning. An Associated Press-CNBC poll even asked members of the general public for their views (more than half reportedly believe the company is overvalued) -- a poll, by the way, quickly picked up by The Washington Post and Time, among others.

Don't AP and CNBC have any better way of spending their money than asking the public what it things of an IPO? Isn't there a lot more important news out there? Does anyone recall that there's still a war going on in Afghanistan (not to mention Syria)? That student loans have climbed above $1 trillion? That JP Morgan Chase & Co. just squandered $2 billion in bad trades? That the economic foundations of Europe are crumbling? That the United States market is dropping at a steady pace?

Did anyone read the lead editorial in Tuesday's New York Times, the one that says Americans are shying away from the market in increasing numbers? Wrote the Times:

There has been less buying and selling of stock, and there have been huge outflows of investor dollars from domestic stock mutual funds, as detailed recently by The Times's Nathaniel Popper. If the trend continues, the result could be a less robust market, with fewer companies opting to raise money by issuing shares and fewer investors willing to put their retirement savings into stocks.

Policy makers should pay attention. Evidence suggests that investors are not merely reacting to tough conditions, but rather are staying away because they do not trust the market.

Editors should pay attention, too. When they choose what to cover and how extensively, for example. The next time mainstream media lament over their own declining bottom lines, maybe they should consider covering more stories of interest to someone other than the business community -- you know, the 1 percent, as the Occupy folks used to put it.

Facebook's public offering is certainly news. But it doesn't demand a week-long drum roll, and it's not the biggest story of the day. I believe the public knows that. The press should, too.