Friday, August 15, 2008

Annals of journalism: The most ignorant mistake the NYT has made this year? 

When the New York Times makes mistakes this idiotic, it really makes you wonder who, exactly, goes into journalism.

Yesterday the New York Times ran a story on a study by the General Accounting Office that was commissioned by Democratic Senators Carl Levin and Byron Dorgan. The study found that from 1998 to 2005, two out of three American corporations didn't pay any corporate income taxes. Levin and Dorgan trumpeted this finding as though it meant something....

As dumb as the Levin-Dorgan press release was, however, it wasn't dumb enough for the New York Times. The paper got out its calculator, multiplied the gross revenues of the companies in the GAO study by 35%, and came up with this classic of economic ignorance:

At a basic corporate tax rate of 35 percent, all the corporations covered in the study in theory owed $875 billion in federal income taxes.

In theory, a company pays 35% of its net income to the feds, not its gross receipts. That reporters and editors at the New York Times should be ignorant of this basic fact is shocking. How in the world can these people purport to instruct the rest of us on economic matters, when they lack the most fundamental understanding of how our tax system works?

This error was not arithmetic, but rather betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of such basics of business as the difference between sales and profits. How does somebody that ignorant even get a job at the New York Times?

There is, of course, a more troubling problem with this error. It is not as if the story was in the front section and written by whoever it is who normally rewrites the press releases handed down by the Gray Lady's Democratic overlords. No, this story appeared in the business section, which means that the error blew past the editor who is theoretically supposed to understand things like profits and corporate tax.

It is a good thing the New York Times has never implied that a few errors of fact inherently discredit the entire publication. Oh. Wait.


By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Fri Aug 15, 03:28:00 AM:

A "liberal" panelist made a similar mistake on "Special Report with Brit Hume" a few years ago.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 15, 07:07:00 AM:

Appalling, even by the ever more lame standards of this tired old rag. It actually operates under the maxim "All the News That Fits Between Our Blinders".  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 15, 08:53:00 AM:

Great post.

By the way:

"How does somebody that ignorant even get a job at the New York Times?"

Take a look at who runs the New York Times, and I think you can easily find the answer.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 15, 09:15:00 AM:

That reporters and editors at the New York Times should be ignorant of this basic fact is shocking.

Not really. I'd bet that such ignorance is considered enlightened in the social circles these reporters live in.  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Fri Aug 15, 09:47:00 AM:

If they really believed what they wrote, they should follow these steps:
1. Take the Gross Sales of the NY Times
2. Multiply by .35
3. Present the bill to the IRS as unpaid taxes, of which you should get a cut when they are collected
4. Profit

Hmmm, no donkey or pitch, probably would not work :)  

By Blogger Nomennovum, at Fri Aug 15, 09:57:00 AM:

"I'd bet that such ignorance is considered enlightened in the social circles these reporters live in." -- Randian

Ain't it the truth. I am neighbors with a few journalists (including the NYT and NBC). One's favorite phrase -- used to punctuate every know-it-all (and invariably leftist) pronouncement -- is, "But what do I know?" Now, whenever someone uses this phrase, you can rest assured they mean, "I know everything. So, everyone should listen to me and do what I say."

Furthermore, how often to you find it that when you know something about the subject of a newspaper article you read, you find any number of glaring errors sufficient to conclude that the reporter doesn't know what he's talking about? 90% of the time?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 15, 11:09:00 AM:

re NYT: shouldn't your headline read, "......The anals of journalism......etc. etc."?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 15, 01:05:00 PM:

If you liked that correction then you will love today's entry in the "We Went To J-School, Not B-School" sweepstakes:

Business Day

An article on the Square Feet pages on Wednesday about the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in financing multifamily housing projects misstated the average price that buyers are paying for apartment buildings that are being sold by Archstone, a national apartment company. It is $200,000 per unit, not per square foot. Similarly, Tishman Speyer and Lehman Brothers paid $240,000 per unit, not per square foot, when they bought the company last October. (Go to Article)

Per unit, per square foot - whatev.

Tom Maguire  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 15, 01:10:00 PM:

Well, once upon a time somebody was able to somehow get across the concept of dual class stock ownership to these clowns.

Wouldn't you know that the one business lesson you would most earnestly hope the Sulzbergers would collectively sleep through is the one where they paid attention?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 15, 04:12:00 PM:

NYT editors need to back away from the crack pipe a bit.  

By Blogger LouisAntoine, at Fri Aug 15, 08:18:00 PM:

Hey shithead. The NYT produces more words than the King James Bible every 24 hours, 365 days a year. They make mistakes sometimes. Like all newspapers everywhere since the beginning of newspapers. Oh, and they don't just comment on links to other newspapers. They report the articles from scratch. In conclusion, you are a dick.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 15, 08:47:00 PM:

Your shock is odd. Have you forgotten that the business section in question regularly publishes Gretchen Morgenson?  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Aug 15, 09:37:00 PM:

Gods forbid that a professional news outlet that routinely insists that everybody trust them and their anonymous sources ensure that their work is accurate. This was not a typo. This was not a factual error. This was sheer ignorance of the subject they were trying to report. High schoolers know the difference between profit and sales. Is it really so much to fucking ask that a professional reporter writing an article for the BUSINESS section know it too.

In addition, I had no idea that every daily issue of the NYT was, in fact, wordier than the Bible. It's been so long since I bought a copy, you see, because they just keep giving me reasons to not. Perhaps you could give link to proof?


By Blogger JPMcT, at Fri Aug 15, 11:07:00 PM:

The ignorance is even MORE profound! Don't these bozo's realize that most small American Corporations empty out their cash as bonuses at the end of the fiscal year TO AVOID BEING TAXED. Of course, the bonuses are taxed at the individual's personal payroll tax rate...so, as usual, the government gets it's cut...but just once.

It ought to be a requirement that members of congress have to hold serious jobs.

You can't make this stuff up.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Fri Aug 15, 11:51:00 PM:

Paul Zrimsek: You're making an excellent point there. How could have I expected anything more? I'm the idiot.  

Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?