Details relating to New York Times credit score dating story

The New York Times has not responded, so let’s break it down.

1997.  1996 amendments to the FCRA become effective.

2010.  An alleged incident that resulted in a crime.

July 1, 2011.  A woman gives a fantastical account of a life-changing event (the 2010 incident, above) “about a year ago.”  Regarding a date with a man, the woman states, “He asked me point blank what my credit score was and I told him I have no clue.”  Near the end of the piece, she writes, “FYI, he checked my credit score without my approval!”

He didn’t like her figure.

He ended it.  She mentions no crime.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act states, “Any person who knowingly and willfully obtains information on a consumer from a consumer reporting agency under false pretenses shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, imprisoned for not more than 2 years, or both” (1996 amendments to the FCRA).

December 25, 2012.  An article referring to the woman’s claim about her date, “Perfect 10? Never Mind That. Ask Her for Her Credit Score” appears on the New York Times website.  It states, inaccurately, “The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates.”

Employers do not use credit scores.

December 26.  The article is published in at least two of the newspaper’s paper editions. The online version states that it appeared on page A1 of the Times’ New York edition, however, it also appeared on page A1 (the front page) of the National Edition.  The article refers to (conflicting with the account by the woman who went on the date) a dating experience that happened “this year.”

The writer of this website, Page A2 publishes “New York Times front page news, herding cats” on PageA2.com, and alerts the reporter via social media.

December 31.  The writer of this website publishes email to New York Times publisher.  Reporter and New York Times executive editor notified via public social media message.

Wikipedia’s circular reference regarding Daguerre Boulevard du Temple photograph

Despite an onerous set of failsafe measures, Wikipedia has it wrong again. This time, the topic is photography–a technology with a less-than two-hundred year history–and is still developing.

Heh, heh.

Here’s the picture.

The Hokumburg effect

For a time, there was a blog named The Hokumburg Goombah. Wikipedia links to one of its pages, but the page no longer exists. In fact, the blog, itself no longer exists; the home page says, “No posts.”

The hokum in Hokumburg could refer to an item about a very old photograph.  Making the Goombah famous, Robert Krulwich schmoozes

My admiration for Hokumburg jumped another notch when I discovered that on his own blog he’d come up with a city photo older than ours, which he claims may contain the “first photograph of a human being.” Wow! I didn’t check with the experts, but here’s his picture.

Of course, the quote above now links to a Hokumburg page that does not exist–a dead link.

Krulwich also finds Jonah Lehrer’s brilliance “riveting.” And if a subject isn’t riveting enough, Lehrer just makes something up about the person. Lehrer’s publisher gushes, “He graduated from Columbia University and attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.”

That Oxford thing is a big deal.

See how another public radio show was duped in another case.

Wikipedia’s failure

The dead link in Wikipedia was a footnote to a sentence in an article titled, “Boulevard du Temple.”

Previously, the article stated, “A photograph of this street, taken in 1838 by Louis Daguerre, is one of the earliest photographs known, and it is the oldest extant photograph showing a person.[1]

Today, it states, “A photograph of this street, taken in 1838 by Louis Daguerre, is one of the earliest Daguerreotypes known, and it is believed to be the first photograph showing a person,” and there is no footnote giving the source of that alleged fact.

Krulwich scored a link (for a time) in the article, too. Apparently, NPR is a reliable source. That link was titled (note the capitalization), “National Public Radio article on the First Photograph of a Human Ever,” but the title of the Krulwich piece contains a weasely question mark and has different wording: “First Photo Of A Human Being Ever?

Mais, est-ce vraiment le premier?

The copy of the photograph on Wikipedia was taken from the book “The Photography Book” which contains a short discussion of the photograph “Boulevard du Temple” (page 105).  However, the discussion makes no mention of it being the first or earliest anything. The book was first published in 1997 and makes a great conversation piece (as does this sentence) for a coffee table.

George Mason University’s scrappy History News Network contains this text, allegedly from Hokumburg: “But this anonymous shadowy man is the first human being to ever have his picture taken.”

A person identifying himself as Gig Thurmond, Editor, The Hokumburg Goombah,  complains about HNN’s record of another post regarding the photograph. Further, Thumond states, flippantly:

Here’s the secret: We found it on Wikipedia.

Or maybe we googled something like ‘old photographs,’ we can’t remember for sure.

But if it was Wikipedia, then that makes it a circular reference; i.e., Wikipedia cites Thumond while Thurmond cites Wikipedia. The phenomenon can be deadly for facts (search for the word proliferation). And if it was the second explanation, then there is no source. Thurmond used sarcasm, and subsequently–lest there be no misunderstanding–even used sarcasm to identify it as sarcasm. But now that serious descriptions (with superlatives no less) of “Boulevard” by Daguerre is de rigeur, claims of its greatness are fair game for scrutiny.

Talk about your anonymous shadowy figures!

Wikipedia’s constructs

Wikipedia has guidelines, rules, standards, policies, practices, proposals, procedures, principles and pillars, pal.  The Five Pillars fall under Principles.

Wikipedia’s Five Pillars:

  • Wikipedia is an encyclopedia.
  • Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view.
  • Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit, use, modify, and distribute.
  • Editors should interact with each other in a respectful and civil manner.
  • Wikipedia does not have firm rules.

So, those are the pillars (when this was written), at least until they are not the pillars. They used to be “unchangeable.” Only in the Wikipedia universe could a sentence like that exist.  Or this: “Wikipedia is not for things made up one day.”

You can’t make this up. And, Wikipedia says that you can’t change anything in Wikipedia, anyway. But don’t be surprised if the last sentence contains a dead link someday.

The first rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club.  The second rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about…

But, forget about all that. “Be bold,” brave Wikipedians [aka, potentially, the human race]!  According to Wikipedia, itself, “You do not need to read any rules before contributing to Wikipedia.”

Verifiability

Wikipedia’s rules are more specific than its Pillars regarding reliable sources and verifiability. Well, OK, they are now (see the fifth Pillar (as it stands today)).  If you find that something here does not square with Wikipedia’s description of itself, just log on (or, indeed, nevermind logging on, just surf) to Wikipedia and change it.

However, that could be seen as “gaming the system.” But, you can change that part, too, etc., etc.

Sometimes it is easier to describe what something is not, rather than what it is. Of course everything is something. It’s just that, sometimes, those who create things can’t bring themselves to say what the things really are. So, they describe what they aren’t. And, of course (you guessed it), Wikipedia even has a list of what Wikipedia is not.

Listverse

Being first is important.  We want–we really, really want–to identify the first photograph of a person (and the first of anything). But, inventors have a lot on their minds, and preserving evidence of a historical moment may not be a priority. Even as important an artifact it was, the Wright brothers 1900 glider was abandoned. On the other hand, a successor to Daguerre’s machine recorded another significant Wright event.

Regarding the Daguerre, in one of its top-ten lists, Listverse states, “This is the first photograph ever taken that captures the image of a man.”

That is dated January, 2009, over a year before Hokumburg’s thing came along. There is no reference, of course.  But then again, there is this thing about Charlie Chaplain.

Unfortunately, Chaplain is not alive to protest.  Indeed, what would Louis Daguerre think about this?

The efficacy of a social media message

The message below followed an exchange in social media.  Some of the links in the message use the nofollow link attribute.

From: Greg Fisher [mailto:greg@pagea2.com]
Sent: Friday, January 04, 2013 2:10 PM
To: Jim Robertson, managing editor, Columbia Daily Tribune
Cc: Henry J. Waters III, editor & publisher emeritus, Columbia Daily Tribune; Vicki Russell, publisher, Columbia Daily Tribune
Subject: The efficacy of a social media message

Your correction states that your writer’s column “incorrectly implied employers access applicants’ credit scores.”

However, the item still states: “Credit scores are one of life’s most important benchmarks. They help qualify your financial picture for a financial institution, an employer or an insurance company.”

What did your editor do to this piece before it was published?

Who reviewed it after I contacted you?

Could we agree on a definition of implied?


Greg Fisher
Page A2
pagea2.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

New York Times News Service story republished by Ohio newspaper

From: Greg Fisher [greg@pagea2.com]
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2013 2:37 PM
To: John F. Wolfe, publisher, Columbus Dispatch (via B. Marrison); Alan Miller, managing editor, Columbus Dispatch
Cc: Jill Riepenhoff, reporter, Columbus Dispatch, Dispatch Media Group; Stephanie Serino, director, New York Times News Service/Syndicate
Subject: RE: Credit scars, Columbus Dispatch III, New York Times, syndicated error

Yesterday, you published, “The credit score, once a little-known figure derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debts and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish job candidates.”

Employers do not use credit scores.

Make a correction today.


Greg Fisher
Page A2
pagea2.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342


From: Greg Fisher
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 2:33 PM
To: James C. Kennedy, chairman, Cox Enterprises, Inc. (via A. McDill)
Cc: Aime Dunstan, features reporter, Palm Beach Post (2)
Subject: RE: Credit scars, Columbus Dispatch II, Cox

From: Greg Fisher
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 1:03 PM
To: John F. Wolfe, publisher, Columbus Dispatch (via B. Marrison)
Cc: Jill Riepenhoff, reporter, Columbus Dispatch, Dispatch Media Group; Aime Dunstan, features reporter, Palm Beach Post; James C. Kennedy, chairman, Cox Enterprises, Inc. (via e. Olmstead)
Subject: RE: Credit scars, Columbus Dispatch II, Cox

The information in your report is mathematically impossible.

If 30 percent of a FICO score is determined by the “Amount owed compared with available credit,” then what percentage is determined by the “Number of accounts with balances”?

You published this quote of a mortgage broker: “‘Now, your life is affected by your credit score: car insurance, cell phones, even as far as employment opportunities.’”

Also, you published: “We all know how important our credit score is. Those with the best scores get better loans, have better jobs and pay lower insurance premiums.”

Subsequently, you published:

Employers also are looking for details of an applicant’s work background. That has become more important because an applicant’s past employers, fearing legal action, rarely release more than job titles and dates of employment.

What’s not a part of the credit check is a credit score, the number that credit-reporting agencies assign to consumers that helps determine how creditworthy they are.

So, as you finally realized, employers do not use credit scores; they cannot even get them.  Ironically, however, you editorialized, “Also, there remains much confusion about the difference between a credit report and a credit score.”

Indeed, even you are confused.

Where do you publish corrections?


From: Greg Fisher
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2012 5:12 PM
To: Jill Riepenhoff, reporter, Columbus Dispatch
Subject: Credit scars, Columbus Dispatch

A graphic accompanying your story illustrates that 30% of a FICO score is determined by “Amount owed compared with available credit.”

However, Fair Isaac (FICO) itself indicates that only two of 6 items in the category that comprises 30 percent of the importance of its credit score have anything to do with any kind of ratio.

Where do you publish clarifications?


Greg Fisher
Page A2
pagea2.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

 

Email to New York Times publisher

From: Greg Fisher [mailto:greg@pagea2.com]
Sent: Monday, December 31, 2012 1:21 PM
To: Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher, New York Times; Complaints about errors that warrant correction, New York Times
Cc: Jessica Silver-Greenberg, reporter, New York Times; Ann Carrns, Bucks, New York Times; Andrew Martin, reporter, New York Times
Subject: Error: credit scores, 2012-12-26 front page story

In a front page story titled, “Perfect 10? Never Mind That. Ask Her for Her Credit Score,” (page A1, New York Times, December 26, 2012) you published, “The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates.”

However, previously, you published, “Employers don’t use credit scores in employment screening, but they can and do access credit reports.”

Both statements can’t be true.  Regarding the notion that credit scores are even used to distinguish between job candidates, provide a source or make a correction today.

Corrections are published on Page A2.


Greg Fisher
Page A2
pagea2.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

New York Times front page news, herding cats

Today, December 26, 2012, a newspaper named the New York Times published an item on page A1 of its “New York” edition.

The article states, “The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates.”

Key words: increasingly, even, and score (as opposed to report).

The Times fails to attribute its reporting of the alleged use of credit scores to distinguish between job candidates to any source.  However, later in the same article, the publication states, “And while eight states, including California, Illinois and Maryland, have passed laws limiting employers ability to use credit checks when assessing job candidates, 13 percent of employers surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management in July performed credit checks on all job applicants.”

That says credit checks, not credit scores, so, still, there is no attribution regarding the claim about scores.

The top three consumer reporting agencies all state that they do not provide credit scores for employment purposes.

While the Times refers to a survey conducted in July, SHRM’s website page about a study done December 28, 2011 through Feb. 7 states, “The percentage of employers that conduct credit background checks on potential employees has dropped since 2010, according to a 2012 survey of 544 U.S.-based HR professionals.”

SHRM confirmed that a previous survey it conducted did not refer to credit scores.  The association’s website also states, “A credit score is a number that gives a snapshot of a period of time; employers do not see this information.”

Recently, the President of the United States said:

If you haven’t checked out your credit score recently, you should.  It can have a major impact on your life.  It can determine whether or not you qualify for a loan or what kind of interest you have to pay.  It can even affect your chances at renting an apartment or getting a job.

A year ago, after a Christmastime message about employers and credit scores, Wikipedia (the message board that looks like an encyclopedia) co-founder Jimmy Wales removed an “unsourced controversial claim” about employers using credit scores.  Wales was quickly usurped, and the unbudging myth returned, this time with a reference to the Times.

848 credit score disclosure

Here is a message from a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who claims that the newspaper’s story about a person with an 848 credit score is accurate.  However, based on the message, the story appears to be inaccurate.

Twitter message:  848 credit score disclosure was from Bank of America

What you won't see on Twitter

The article states that a credit score disclosure–with nonsense about a person’s 848 credit score being higher than itself–was provided by a credit bureau.  But, the message above indicates that the disclosure came from a credit card issuer.

 

Wall Street Journal removed comments

[continued from creditscoring.com.  Last email (to Rupert Murdoch):  “… what are you doing about my comments that you removed?”]


From: Blumenthal, Karen
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2012 1:41 PM
To: greg@creditscoring.com; Henderson, Julie ( Newscorp )
Subject: RE: credit score, Credit utilization, Wall Street Journal, 2012-12-01

Greg,

I appreciate the feedback.

I have written several times about credit scores and in some of those stories, i have gone into more detail about the “amounts owed” category. In fact, as I’m sure you know, all of the FICO categories have several factors in them.

In this case, however, the focus was on the traits of high scorers, not the broad components of the credit scores. I have only 800 words a column, sometimes less, and a lot of ground to cover, so I cannot cover every detail every time, as much as I would like to. My goal here was simply to underscore that credit use, or amounts owed, come into play in a more significant way than, say, credit history and that the 7% use number was rather surprising.

To answer your question about the use of available credit, one-third or 30% are common rules of thumb offered by those in the business as a guide for consumers who want to know where the broad cut-off lines are. Changing your credit use is one of the fastest and easiest ways to impact a credit score quickly–especially when compared with credit history or missed payments–and i think it’s important to share that with readers.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

best,

Karen


From: Greg Fisher [mailto:greg@creditscoring.com]
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2012 2:58 PM
To: Karen Blumenthal, columnist, Getting Going, Wall Street Journal, News Corporation
Subject: RE: credit score, Credit utilization, Wall Street Journal, 2012-12-01 II

It is a math error.

Since it is only part of the 30 percent “Amounts owed” category, then how can “Credit utilization” account for—as you claim—30 percent of the calculation?

The sum of the other items in the category does not equal zero.


Greg Fisher
The Credit Scoring Site
creditscoring.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

Edit, December 14, 2012:  Fair Isaac invalidated the link from the words “Credit utilization” above by removing the page that was located at the internet address http://www.scoreinfo.org/FICO-Scores/Score-Ingredients.aspx. The same information about the so-called credit utilization is now at http://www.scoreinfo.org/FICO-Scores/Pages/Score-Ingredients.aspx.

Zombie myths

In April, using his News Corporation Fox Business thingy, Rupert Murdoch published, “According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 60% of employers check applicants’ credit scores for at least some of their job candidates as part of their hiring process.”

Fox Business website before correction

Fox Business website before correction

That is nonsense, of course, and somebody changed the Fox story.  The new sentence, substituting reports for scores, is “According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 60% of employers check  applicants’ credit reports for at least some of their job candidates as part of their hiring process.”

[Rookie reporters and journalism students: Don’t be afraid to check original sources (Wouldn’t that be novel?).]

But, there is no acknowledgement on that story’s page (whose title uses a question mark) by Murdoch of the error and its correction.  That is not to say, however, that he always acts in such a clandestine manner.  Within another property in his empire, there was clear acknowledgement of the same error.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Question Mark
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Unfortunately, due to the syndicated error phenomena, the zombie myth lives.

It also lives in a certain Louisiana State University study, on a United States federal government server, no less, for U.S. citizens to read (and become misinformed).  The National Institutes of Health website states, “Many organizations use credit scores as an employment screening tool, but little is known about the legitimacy of such practices.”

And, here we go, again:

From: Greg Fisher [mailto:greg@pagea2.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 8:35 AM
To: Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO, News Corporation (via Julie Henderson)
Cc: Tim Sullivan, writer, translator, yoga teacher and massage therapist, Money Blue Book
Subject: name your source; coining a term: CUR (credit-utilization ratio)

You published

When you close an account, especially a larger account, your credit-utilization ratio (CUR) will be affected and your score could go down. In addition, if the card you’re closing was the first credit card you ever got, it could shorten the length of your credit history, which can also hurt your score… Closing too many cards at once can cause your credit score to drop sharply from a snowball effect of the reasons mentioned above.

Who is your source regarding closing an account shortening a credit history?  Fair Isaac calls that a myth.

Also, where did you get the idea to use the initials CUR to refer to the so-called credit utilization ratio?  Why don’t you call it PBCL (proportion of balances to credit limits)?


Greg Fisher
Page A2
pagea2.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

McClatchy’s syndicated error

(see “950” on the Associated Press website)

From: Greg Fisher [mailto:greg@pagea2.com]
Sent: Friday, September 28, 2012 10:49 AM
To: Bill Marimow, editor, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Media Network Inc.; Reid Kanaley, columnist, Philadelphia Inquirer; Al Heavens, real estate columnist, Philadelphia Inquirer
Cc: Laura D. Adams, personal finance expert, Quick and Dirty Tips; Stacy Johnson, CPA, executive producer, publisher, president, journalist, Money Talks News; Jeff Gelles, columnist, Philadelphia Inquirer; Gail MarksJarvis, personal finance columnist, Chicago Tribune; Sam Zell, Tribune Company
Subject: RE: correction policy, Philadelphia Inquirer II

Now, you published: “The most common credit score issued is the FICO, named for Fair Isaac Co., which developed the mathematical formula. Rankings are from 300 to 950: The higher the number, the lower the loan-default risk.”

However, according to Fair Isaac, FICO scores range from 300 to 850.

Please reply with a link to your correction.

Also, today, please answer the questions below from over a month ago, and make sure that Mr. Hall gets this message.


Greg Fisher
Page A2
pagea2.com
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

[previous message attached]