August 22, 2007

Correction Request Made on the NYT’s ‘Manufacturing Recession’ Claim

Previous Posts:

  • August 21 — New York Times Twists Data to Make Great Personal Income News Appear Awful
  • August 21 — Source Data Update Post
  • August 22 — The NYT’s Six-Month Uncorrected ‘Manufacturing Recession’ Claim

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New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston responded this afternoon to the e-mail I sent to him last night, part of which was, with his knowledge, posted here this morning.

After yesterday’s brush with the blogosphere over his “2005 Incomes, on Average, Still Below 2000 Peak” report, I didn’t really expect Mr. Johnston to provide a reply to the criticisms he received beyond those he provided here at BizzyBlog, at Tom Maguire’s place (here and here), and at Back Talk. He hasn’t done so here, and I don’t expect any future feedback.

Johnston’s e-mail today didn’t deal with the content of yesterday’s BizzyBlog or other posts, either. That’s okay. I think the blogospheric dissection (more examples from today are here and here) of his reporting, and of the tone of his blog comments on this particular story, have taken him down a peg or two. I suspect he doesn’t agree; or perhaps does but doesn’t care; or perhaps he’s decided, having said his piece, to move on to other things. So we’ll have to leave it at that.

But Johnston did advise me that if I have a complaint about David Leonhardt’s made-up and still not retracted claim of a manufacturing recession way back in February, I should contact the Times’s Standards Editor and Public Editor, and, “as a matter of civility and good manners,” copy Mr. Leonhardt on whatever I send.

The Standards Editor is Craig Whitney, last seen in the Times this past Sunday in a story about Wikipedia vandalism (oh, excuse me, “Corporate Fingerprints”). Certain of Mr. Whitney’s co-workers have been caught red-handed vandalizing the Wiki entries of George Bush and Condi Rice, offenses Times reporter Katie Hafner saved for Paragraphs 26 and 27. One can only surmise that she felt her colleagues’ transgressions against prominent figures of the Bush Awere “obviously” less important than at least a dozen other narrower and mostly corporate-driven edits:

And The New York Times Company is among those whose employees have made, among hundreds of innocuous changes, a handful of questionable edits. A change to the page on President Bush, for instance, repeated the word “jerk” 12 times. And in the entry for Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, the word “pianist” was changed to “penis.”

“It’s impossible to determine who did any of these things,” said Craig R. Whitney, the standards editor of The Times. “But you can only shake your head when you see what was done to the George Bush and Condoleezza Rice entries.”

Maybe computer geeks can set me straight, but I’m quite skeptical of Mr. Whitney’s untraceability claim (see Comment 3 below from NixGuy [thanks!] — make that very, very skeptical).

The Public Editor is Clark Hoyt; his latest offering, an attempt to placate “you’re not moonbatty enough” Times readers who are clearly having a hard time digesting the rare-occasion solid reporting about Iran’s involvement in Iraq (duh), is here. Hoyt replaced Bryan Calame, whose May swan-song column is here.

I sent the follow e-mail to Mr. Whitney and Mr. Hoyt, copying Mr. Leonhardt and Mr. Johston (links were included in the e-mail; hopefully they’ll get through at the other end):

Dear Mr. Whitney and Mr. Hoyt,

At the suggestion of David Cay Johnston, I am sending this e-mail to complain of a longstanding example of erroneous and very poor reporting by David Leonhardt that, after nearly six months, has not been acknowledged, let alone corrected.

Mr. Leonhardt informed Times readers on February 28 that the US manufacturing sector was in a recession (“Manufacturing Slips Quietly Into Recession”) — Not heading towards one, or on the verge of one, but in one.

First of all, it is improper to characterize only one sector of an economy as being in a recession. Recession is a macroeconomic term. Applying the word to a single sector of the economy is technically incorrect and should be seen as deliberately pejorative.

Even beyond that, the manufacturing sector has not been in anything resembling dire or even difficult straits for over four years. According to data published monthly by the highly-respected Institute for Supply Management, the sector barely went into contraction in November 2006 and January 2007 (second item at link); it has expanded in 48 of the past 50 months, including, according to ISM’s Manufacturing Index history page, the months of February through July 2007. The February report indicating expansion was released on March 1, the very first day after Leonhardt’s woefully wrong “recession” article.

A Times search on “manufacturing recession” (not in quotes) appears to indicate that the Times has never retracted Mr. Leonhardt’s manufacturing “recession” call, although that call was, and remains, self-evidently untrue. In fact, the TimeSelect abstract for Mr. Leonhardt’s story even refers to the entire economy being in a recession. That also was, and remains, self-evidently untrue. This situation, uncorrected, leaves Mr. Leonhardt and the Times justifiably vulnerable to charges of agenda-driven reporting. The “recession” claim never had any foundation. It should be an embarrassment to the Times each day it stands.

I would hope, and expect, that the Times will correct this matter with all deliberate speed.

Regards,
Tom Blumer
BizzyBlog.com

I will report back any responses or results. Set your own expectations.

Carnival Barking (082207)

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 6:32 am

The 79th Carnival of Ohio Politics is here. More like a state fair than a mere carnival, it has several new participants and features very able assembly by WLST’s Jill.

A Related Point from Yesterday’s Timesfest; The Paper’s Six-Month Uncorrected ‘Manufacturing Recession’ Claim

Last night, it occurred to me, as I was preparing an e-mail to notify New York Times business columnist David Cay Johnston about updates to yesterday’s original post and the new source data update post, that I should bring a Times-related business reporting matter to his attention.

So I did (links to previous BizzyBlog and other posts not in the e-mail have been added by me; Mr. Johnston was advised that this portion of the e-mail would be posted):

David,

….. Until earlier this year, I really didn’t have too adverse of an opinion on the hard business reporting at the Times (outside of Paul Krugman, but he’s a commentator). I’ve usually seen AP as consistently worse on hard biz-econ news.

Then, in February, Times reporter David Leonhardt told readers that manufacturing was in a recession. Not heading towards one. Not on the verge of one. Nope — IN one.

Leaving aside the impropriety of characterizing only one sector of an economy as being in a recession (a macro term), manufacturing has not been in anything resembling dire straits for over four years. It barely went into contraction in November 2006 and January 2007 (second item at link); it has expanded in 48 of the past 50 months.

Leonhardt himself has never retracted his “recession” call. It remains in its own way one of the most bogus pieces of reporting I have seen in any section of the news.

David, if calling a manufacturing “recession” and then not retracting it after six consecutive months of reported expansion immediately after his call is not agenda-driven, I don’t know what is. It never had any foundation, and it should be an embarrassment to the Times each day it stays uncorrected.

Yet I notice, contrary to your apparent expectations in such a situation, at least per your comment yesterday (second paragraph — “The idea that in the most scrutinized news report in the world I could twist facts for some venal purpose is laughable. We fire reporters who do that and we should.”), that Mr. Leonhardt is still working at the Times. How can that be?

Regards,
Tom Blumer

UPDATE: Leonhardt’s manufacturing recession call, and the nearly six months it has stood uncorrected, is all the more absurd when you see the comparison originally made at this post on March 1:

According to the Times, the most recent four-month period, boxed in red below, represents a “manufacturing recession”; The Times has already declared it (“For Manufacturing, a Recession Has Arrived”):

ISMpmi2006to2007

But the following periods boxed in orange from 1995-2000 did not:

ISMpmi1995to2000.jpg

(Source and Explanation: Historical Table of the Institute for Supply Management’s Monthly PMI Manufacturing Index. Readings above 50 represent expansion. Those below 50 represent contraction. According to ISM (scroll down at link), “A PMI in excess of 41.9 percent, over a period of time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy.”)

….. In a Proquest Library search of the Times for articles containing both “manufacturing” and “recession” from 1/1/1995 to 1/1/2001, I found no declarations that the manufacturing sector was actually in a recession — only a few saying that it might get to that point.

The ISM Historical Table shows that since Leonhardt’s “manufacturing recession” call, the ISM manufacturing readings for February through July have been 52.3, 50.9, 54.7, 55.0, 56.0, and 53.8. The February report was released on March 1, the very first day after Leonhardt’s “recession” article.

Recession, reschmession.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

UPDATE: I get it now, thanks to this NewsBusters comment — Leonhardt was “manufacturing a recession.”

SOBer Thoughts (082207)

Anna at A Rose by Any Other Name has chilled on the regular blogging, but has continued the weekly “Wednesday’s Heroes” posts. The latest is here. Don’t miss them.

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One Bob nails the most disturbing (so far) aspect of the Michael Vick situation (at least as of Tuesday morning). Vick doesn’t seem even a tiny bit sorry, and if he isn’t, he shouldn’t be allowed on a football field again — even after he does his time, if that even happens.

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One Oar notes the quite widely predicted woes of municipal (i.e., taxpayer-funded) Wi-Fi systems are coming to pass.

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Pro Ecclesia notes that Hugo Chavez has declared himself President for Life (/mock surprise). Jay apparently had to go to a British paper to learn of it. My, this sure wasn’t covered much, if at all, by US Old Media.

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Return of the Conservatives didn’t ask, so I will: Shouldn’t this news publication be embarrassed that it gave well over 400 words to a story about an antiwar “rally” — that had barely a dozen people?

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RAB links to an Ohio GOP blog post, which links to a DDN editorial, which decries how the Third Frontier program is turning into P-O-R-K.

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Interested-Participant links to a story from the UK about family doctors being warned to be open on evenings and Saturdays, under threat of losing their patients. US voters should have long since lost their patience with politicians who want to impose this garbage on us.

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Dan Keeler wonders how Democratic candidates can make gaffes that (my take) make Dan Quayle’s “potatoe” episode pale in comparison and suffer no apparent negative consequences, and certainly no media ridicule. The latest: John Edwards told a questioner that he didn’t know what kind of health-care system Cuba has — even though he claims to have seen most of Michael Moore’s “Sicko,” and even though just about anyone with a pulse knows that in Fidel’s Workers’ Paradise, health care is nationalized. Here’s a previous post about a Fred Thompson column on the subject in case you need to be reminded of Cuba’s “wonderful” system.

Positivity: Grizzly mauling victim marries the woman who saved his life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

From Anchorage and other points in Alaska:

Shaktoolik man’s brush with death leads to vows
Published: August 19, 2007
In a rare wedding at the Alaska Native Medical Center on Friday, Shawn Evan rolled down an aisle in a wheelchair to marry the health aide who saved his life after a savage grizzly mauling in Western Alaska.
The broad-shouldered 32-year-old said thoughts of his longtime girlfriend, Lydia Jackson, and their two young sons kept him alive during the agonizing skiff ride back to the village of Shaktoolik after the attack on July 31.

Freezing because he’d lost so much blood, with only muscle, skin and a crude splint holding his shattered legs together below the knees, Evan struggled to stay awake.

“There was twice that my heart felt weird, different. I felt it slow down, like it was losing its pumping power,” he said.

After villagers rushed him to the clinic in a truck bed, Jackson, 31, directed a desperate effort to keep him alive.

Jackson, now Lydia Evan, slid intravenous needles into Shawn’s pale arms to replace lost fluid. She cut off his blood-soaked jeans and rubber boots. Blood gushed to the floor.

As he moaned, she cleaned his splintered bones and set them back in place as best she could with a proper splint.

“Everyone thought I would panic but I didn’t,” Lydia said Friday after the wedding. “I knew if we didn’t stabilize him and get him to a hospital quickly, he wouldn’t be with us today.”

The couple has been together 10 years, since Evan permanently moved from California to the Inupiat village of 200 where he’d spent summers hunting and berry-picking to supply food for his grandmother.

Lydia has wanted to get married since she was pregnant with their first child, Ethan, now 7. But Shawn was stubborn and refused to pop the question even after Marcus was born 18 months ago, he said.

That changed at the hospital. Doctors told him he might lose a foot, even a leg, but constant support from Lydia and others lifted his spirits. He knew it was time to take life seriously, starting with marriage.

“After the first four or five days at the hospital I realized how lucky, how blessed I am. All the things I have. Good boys, my parents, Lydia. It all just kind of hit me.” …..

Go here for the rest of the story.