How Ford And The New York Times Lie To You

UPDATED (see bottom): On Tuesday, Ford released Q1 results.  Here is the New York Times’ take, emphasis mine:

DEARBORN, Mich. — The Ford Motor Company on Tuesday reported its best first-quarter earnings since 1998, even as its sales shift to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

Ford earned $2.55 billion in the quarter, a 22 percent increase from the period a year ago and the strongest evidence yet of its transformation from a company dependent on big trucks into one that can generate significant profit selling cars of all sizes.

The old Ford lost money on many of its cars, counting on sales of more expensive trucks to stay in the black. Today’s Ford, however, is able to persuade many of the drivers who buy its subcompact, the Fiesta, to save on gasoline to also spend thousands of dollars on amenities like heated leather seats.

I pulled up Ford’s 8-k that corresponds with this earnings release.  The word “small” is mentioned exactly once, in the “first quarter highlights,” in the bullet point “Unveiled Ford B-MAX small car and Ranger Wildtrak pickup at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.”  Neither amenities nor heated leather seats are mentioned at all.  “Fiesta” is mentioned only thrice (and only in that same section):

  • Posted 16% increase in U.S. sales due to strong demand for fuel-efficient products such as Fiesta, Fusion, Edge, Escape, Explorer and F-Series.
  • Increased Asia Pacific Africa share to 2.4%, fueled by Fiesta, Focus, Figo and Ranger; China sales increased 18%, India up 115%
  • Fiesta became the first in its segment to earn top safety ratings in the world’s largest markets — the U.S., Europe, and China

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Lies, Damn Lies, & The New York Times, v. 876,319

"Statistics"

Since the beginning of the Financial Crisis, the already-suspect business section of the New York Times seems to have been more adept than ever at propagating half-truths as gospel, which despite the best efforts of financial bloggers, goes largely un-noticed by most readers.

The most recent example of this insidious brand of “journalism” comes from Editorial Board member Eduardo Porter, whose impressive resume includes stints covering business & economics in Asia and South America, and the Hispanic population in the United States after earning an “MSc in quantum fields and fundamental forces from Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London,” (whatever that means).  I mention his background not as a means of ad hominem attack, quite the contrary; unless that graduate degree is nothing like what it sounds like, I’d expect someone with a background in math and science to know better than to make amateur mistakes, e.g. conflating correlation with causation, misrepresenting data, presenting knowingly incomplete information, etc.

I’m far from perfect here, but considering my posts responding to nonsense from the NYT are by far the most viewed ones on this site, I think I just may be onto something.

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A Free Lesson on e-Publishing for The New York Times, And/Or: Things That Are Not News

I’m feeling generous & in the holiday spirit so let’s just say blogs – and best practices that evolved from them – didn’t achieve any real popularity until 2006.  Even if I temper my already low, low expectations from the MSM and specifically the New York Times, 4+ years is a LONG time to apparently be in the media business without picking-up on prevailing trends in that business, like in-line citation of source material, for example.  Whereas blogs and the more forward-thinking members of the 4th Estate understand that when you mention an article, like this one, you don’t link to your own site, you like to the article or website of the subject of said article.  The NYT has this really annoying, hypocritical habit of mentioning something or someone, yet the hyperlink goes not to the web presence of said thing/person, but to an internal index of articles on that topic/person.  Bloomberg does the same thing, but I don’t see them abuse it nearly as much as the NYT does, and let’s be honest, more often than not, Bloomberg has much better internal information than does the Grey Lady.

If we’re talking about computer programs that “read” text found in news and attempt to gauge sentiment and initiate trades based on that analysis, why not mention some of the products or talk about how this is hardly news?  I recall reading several articles over the past 5+ years on this subject, and Reuters has offered such services since at least 2007, as I learned with a 20-second google search.  Even if we’re to compare apples to apples (insofar as such a comparison is even possible with the NYT on one side), FT/Alphaville touched-upon this topic 11 months ago!  Putting aside how painfully the NYT coverage ignores their ignorance/laziness for a second, I want to look back at this particularly annoying paragraph from the NYT article that illustrates, quite clearly, just how badly the NYT just doesn’t get it, “it” being web-publishing best practices:

Tech-savvy traders have been scraping data out of new reports, press releases and corporate Web sites for years. But new, linguistics-based software goes well beyond that. News agencies like Bloomberg, Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters have adopted the idea, offering services that supposedly help their Wall Street customers sift through news automatically.

The hyperlink for “Thomson Reuters” goes to http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/thomson-reuters-corporation/index.html?inline=nyt-org, which looks like this:

Perhaps this is a bad example, as that NYT page about Thomson Reuters is likely a decent resource for readers totally and ignorantly unfamiliar with one of the largest news and data providers on the planet…a faux pas for which there’s really little excuse, especially for anyone who’s ever visited Times Square in New York City…

Thomson Reuters, never heard of him...

The NYT (and other MSM business sections’) management inexplicably still has this mostly-deluded idea that they need to keep eyeballs within the nyt.com domain – and certainly never ever under ANY circumstances send eyeballs to competitors – at all costs, even if it means delivering an inferior product, in this case, an article that could have been made significantly better with a few hyperlinks pointing to other websites/articles.

This is not news, nor, unfortunately, is this the most egregious example of the NYT’s utter lack of understanding of how this whole internet thing works.  Remember this, when popular object of my scorn Gretchen Morgenson proclaimed that Greece’s troubles were caused by CDS instead of FX Swaps?.  Even worse, the link in her article on CDS pointed – no surprise – to NYT’s internal page “about Credit Default Swaps,” which even in an updated version, reads as if it was written by monkeys.  Honestly, linking to Wikipedia would be a significant improvement!  Like several orders of magnitude better!  (On a side note I have to thank Gretchen, because that is the most popular post on this website!)

The point is, ladies & gentlemen, that even lowly bloggers like myself understand that best practices dictate when you mention someone/something, you link to it.  Period.  This is a simple evolution of those annoying MLA (etc) documentation standards we were all forced to use growing-up, and the rationale is the same: if you say something, back it up.  This is ESPECIALLY true when the author is not a subject-matter expert (even tangentially), but a journalist, and the subject matter at hand isn’t common knowledge, as is the case here.

I find it painfully hypocritical that the NYT (and many of its employees who hold themselves in such high esteem) claim(s) to uphold the highest journalistic standards, yet routinely and consistently makes a mockery of them.  As several journalist friends/acquaintances are keen to remind me, not every reader or viewer is an expert; on the contrary, a significant number are closer to laymen than professionals, and thus articles & television segments are published/produced with that in mind.  Fine, but there is a vast and serious difference between “dumbing it down” to appeal to/inform a wider audience and speaking with authority without actually having any.

I’m certain defenders of traditional journalism, its standards, practices, and conventions will immediately reply that there are several experts quoted in the article.  Big freaking deal.  That isn’t good enough any more.  I can easily claim to and convince several journalists that I’m an expert in several fields with which I’m only moderately familiar.  If you want to establish someone as a subject matter expert, throw in a link to their website.  For example, this article quoted a man for whom I have the utmost respect but did him a disservice by introducing him poorly and incompletely and worse, not linking to his complete bio, which is – guess what – readily available here, on his website, where readers could – had the NYT linked to it – read about Roger’s qualifications and credibility instead of taking the NYT’s abridged word for it.

“It is an arms race,” said Roger Ehrenberg, managing partner at IA Ventures, an investment firm specializing in young companies, speaking of some of the new technologies that help traders identify events first and interpret them.

Ironically, there’s another arms race going on, and its between thick-headed traditional media types and those who adapt to a shifting landscape, who understand that old paradigms are dead or dying, who embrace the ability of the Web to help them (or us, I should say) better-inform readers than ever-before.  Some people get it*.  Alas, it appears not many of them have much sway at the New York Times.

*An curious phenomenon, considering the recent expansion of the Sorkin-edited Dealbook, which while far from perfect in respect to the issues discussed above, is far ahead of the “regular” articles on the NYT website.

On Blogs and Bloggers

The WSJ and New York Times have forced my hand.  The MSM still has such a painfully miserable grasp of blogs, bloggers, the blogosphere I’m suffering second-hand embarrassment just reading their drivel.

This is some high-level stuff, ignoring for a moment the blog-specific failures and other particular shortcomings from the WSJ and the NYT pieces, so bear with me.

What’s the difference between what someone like Felix Salmon does for Reuters and what someone like Gretchen Morgenson does for the New York Times? (And no, the answer is not “the former knows what he is talking about, while the latter spews-forth nonsense and ignorance,” although that’s an observation with which I’d generally agree.)   More generally, I’m curious, what makes a blog a blog (and a blogger a blogger)?  Is it the back-end, i.e. a website the content of which is published with WordPress or Typepad?  Is it the content itself, the site layout, the writers, or the editorial standards?  Is it association with MSM or a pre-existing other media?

I believe the answer to all of these questions is a solid “no;” as far as I can tell, the only thing that differentiates a “blog” (already a vague term in the common vernacular) from an “online magazine” or general “website” is that either the proprietors and/or the general public simply call one a blog and one something else.  That it.  For example, why is Naked Capitalism a “blog” instead of “the website of Yves Smith?”  Is The Atlantic’s Business section of the website a blog?  Why (or why not)?  Both host several daily posts (or articles, whatever) from a number of (mostly regular) contributors, allow readers to leave comments, etc.  Naked Capitalism is powered by Blogger; The Atlantic uses Movable Type.

What I hope you’re starting to realize by now is that the term “blog” (and its derivatives) has became wayyyy too pervasive, to the point that I believe its entirely misused, if not abused with startling regularity.  Why, though?  We’ve established that neither the site layout nor the back-end publishing system determines whether a particular site is a blog or not, so then it must have something to do with the content and/or the author(s), right?   Ok, then tell me how is it that Gretchen is a “columnist” and an “editor” but Felix is referred-to as a far less prestigious sounding “blogger?”  Contrary to the claims of some other observers, I think this difference is far more than simply cosmetic; except for the few of us “in the know,” I’m fairly certain the average person thinks Gretchen much more credible than Felix, at least based purely on title alone.  This, sense does not make.  Judging purely from the content these two create, Felix deserves far more respect than Gretchen, as his posts are not only more frequent, but significantly more technical and nuanced than the predictable, dumbed-down, anti-capitalist rhetoric we get from her.

Of course, not all “blogs” are created equal, but that’s the point; some websites are – or host – what I’ll refer to as “true blogs,” while others are effectively the same as MSM(-esque) websites.  The latter often have several full-time contributors, support, and editorial staff.  Think Gawker.  The former are usually some sort of grossly un-professional hodge-podge of sporadically-created content covering seemingly random topics; think something like myrandomdisorganizedmessofawebsite.blogspot.com.

The point is that many websites that are commonly referred-to as “blogs” really aren’t.  Likewise, the authors of said “blogs” should not be considered bloggers, but writers (or analysts, or whatever) and the content they create should be given the respect (and usually, the credibility) given to the works of other professional writers (or analysts, or whatever) of the same/similar caliber.

Its funny, while MSM completely fails to grasp this whole blog thing, their own websites continually devolve into them, for the better.

Use of Phrase/Term "Toxic Assets" Banned

Period.

Any author caught using the term, sans clarification/serious explanation of the assets in question, what particular feature(s) make(s) them so “toxic” shall, whenever I’m alerted, be tarred, feathered, and – depending on the severity of the offense – drawn and quartered.

I am not fucking around, either.  Be forewarned.  I will hunt you down, I will eat your young (metaphorically speaking), and you will tell me what is so fucking toxic or may god have mercy on your ignorant, lazy, biased, lack of a soul.

Oh, and I’m back in the U.S; no bitternes what-so-ever (but seriously, any author, like this dude, Senator Jim Webb, caught using the phrase, be on high-alert.  Stone Street Advisors has the following, the implements, and most importantly, the desire to expose you as the hack you are.

Also you pandering fucking hack (Webb), while I appreciate the situation in which you find yourself (having to pander, or under the perception to do so), that article is so wraught with fucking bullshit were you my representative I would actually run against you, I shit you not, and I would, if nothing else, make you sound as economically fucking retarded as Barney Frank and Maxine Waters illicit love-child so help me god.

Cut the bullshit.  Seriously.  We, on Wall Street, exist to play this game better than you, better than anyone else.  That is our fucking job.  You want to chastise us for it?  Bring it.  You are a public “servant;” we serve our clients and shareholders.  If they have a problem with how we run our business, they take it up with us.  Oh, and remember, only 40% +/- of U.S citizens pay a dime in Federal taxes.  Oh, and those that did got paid well, for their “investment.”  Slow.your.roll.

Wall Street Captivated by Curling, Says New York Times

According to the always tuned-in folks over at the New York Times Business section, apparently “Wall Street” has gone stir-crazy over Curling aka frozen Swiffering.  Sure, there’s some strategy and technique, I don’t think anyone (at least no honest athlete or gamer) is debating that, but to say Wall Street has been Romanced by the “sport?”  Color me confused/skeptical/you get the idea.