Email to New York Times publisher

From: Greg Fisher []
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
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.

Chicago Tribune’s uncorrected errors

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2012 1:38 PM
To: Sam Zell, Tribune Company; Sam Zell, Tribune Company (alt); Corrections desk, Chicago Tribune
Cc: Jane Hirt, vice president, managing editor, Chicago Tribune; CTC-YourMoney; Margaret Holt, standards editor, Chicago Tribune; Anthony Sprauve, US Consumer / FICO Score Public Relations, Fair Isaac; Craig Watts, Fair Isaac; Northwest Chicago Film Society; Nina Metz, reporter, film, TV and theater, Chicago Tribune; Daniel Bortz, reporter/editor, Personal Finance, U.S. News & World Report; Mortimer B. Zuckerman, chairman, Executive Committee, editor-in-chief, U.S. News & World Report (via Liz Putze); Julie Diop; Ilyce Glink; Luke Knowles,; Kate Forgach, blogger,; Felix Salmon, blogger, Reuters; Katie Leslie, reporter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Marcus K. Garner, reporter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Jane Scholz, editor, McClatchy Tribune Information Services ; Gary B. Pruitt, chairman, president and CEO, McClatchy Company (via E. Lintecum); Gerould W. Kern, senior vice-president and editor, Chicago Tribune
Subject: RE: credit score, utilization ratio, Chicago Tribune II, You can’t have it both ways

Not so fast, Mr. Zell.

The numbers you use for credibility are also your downfall.  While you may be satisfied with the column, you did not say that it is accurate.  Who was your source for that part of the column?

Now, here is the big question:  If 30 percent of the FICO score depends on the so-called credit utilization ratio (an inaccurate notion), then what percentage depends on the Number of accounts with balances?

A long time ago, I spent a year dealing with that issue and I am sure that the percentage is a positive number.  According to your logic, however, it is zero.

Same for Amount owing on specific types of accounts.

Same for Lack of a specific type of balance, in some cases.

Same for Amount owing on accounts.

So, your response fails to address a simple math problem.  The ratio accounts for something less than 30 percent of the score, so your statement is incorrect.

The impossibility of your utilization ratio claim notwithstanding, perhaps you could discuss with Fair Isaac (to whom you refer as FICO) your multiple inaccurate articles about employers using credit scores.  The company has no expertise on the matter (since, to my knowledge, it does not sell consumer reports to anybody but consumers), however, it has significant influence over media.  Fair Isaac certainly has Reuters snowed.  Asked to explain its public statement about pre-employment screening, Fair Isaac replied, “The mention you cited from the myFICO video clip was based on anecdotal information gleaned from public sources such as published articles.”

Perhaps they got it from you.  Years after the FICO score company stated that employers use credit scores, that claim—based on a silly rumor—has been debunked.  But it lives on at the Chicago Tribune.

In one place you published, “Because employers and landlords have access to the scores, it can determine who gets an apartment or even a job.”

On the contrary, in another place, you published: “Similar to the reports that a consumer can obtain for free each year through credit-reporting agencies, employers receive a report that lists debt. The reports do not, however, give an applicant’s credit score.”

Yet, in another place, you published, “When you decide to purchase a car or house, or even rent an apartment or apply for a job, your credit score matters.”

Consumer reporting agency Experian states: “Employers never get a credit score. Unfortunately, that is a very common misperception.”

There are other examples.  In one, a columnist made an honorable correction in a subsequent column (dated Independence Day, no less), but it doesn’t seem to have hit da Trib (the date of the correction ironic in light of your abuse of our First Amendment rights).

Who are your sources?

Based on information that you continue to maintain on your website, I might have caught one of the few trains that go through Ohio (and in the middle of the night) to Chicago to see the film “The Halliday Brand” only to find that tonight’s screening had been canceled.

You published your correction on another page.

What is your correction policy?

Consider the citizens.

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



From: CTC-YourMoney []
Sent: Monday, June 04, 2012 5:04 PM
To: Greg Fisher
Subject: RE: credit score, utilization ratio, Chicago Tribune II

Dear Mr. Fisher:

After discussing your concerns with FICO, we’re satisfied with Carolyn Bigda’s column. Thank you for writing.

Kind regards,

Pete Reinwald
Content editor
Consumer finance
Chicago Tribune
Tribune Newspapers

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