Audit Notes: Steve Jobs’ liver, NYT v. Bloomberg, WSJ overkill

The Commercial Appeal uncovers a conflict with the late Apple chief's surgeon

The Memphis Commercial Appeal has some very good reporting on the questions surrounding the late Steve Jobs’s liver transplant in Memphis in 2009.

Jobs bought a house there in a fire sale from the state of Tennessee, and then sold it to his transplant surgeon two years later for what he’d paid for it. The Commercial Appeal reports that the surgeon lived in the house for two years before his LLC bought it from Jobs’ LLC—all while Jobs’ attorney paid the bills:

“I took care of him and visited him in that home. When I learned that it was going to be going on the market, I asked … if I could purchase it,” Eason told commissioners.

Yet Eason didn’t tell commissioners all he knew.

Eason was going through a divorce and moved into the house two years before buying it. And while he was there, from early summer 2009 until he acquired the deed in May 2011, the utilities and property taxes were paid by Riley, Jobs’ San Francisco lawyer. Records show Riley, who’s worked as Apple’s outside counsel, wrote personal checks in 2010 and 2011 totaling $23,585 to cover the property taxes. Riley also used his MasterCard to pay Memphis Light, Gas & Water $8,770 for utilities at the home through 14 payments between May 2010 and May 2011 — again as Dr. Eason lived there before buying the house. Eason put the utilities in his name after he purchased the home on May 5, 2011, records show. Eason said he lived in the home only part-time during the first of those two years as he tried to reconcile with his wife. “And then, in 2010, sometime in spring of 2010, I moved in there and stayed there until I purchased the house. And live there now,” he said.

Interesting, to say the least.

The New York Times excellent public editor Margaret Sullivan looks at Bloomberg’s pushback against the paper’s reports that it spiked a China investigation and finds that it falls flat:

After I began investigating the complaint by interviewing journalists at Bloomberg and at The Times, Bloomberg postponed and then canceled my scheduled interview with Mr. Winkler. A public relations representative told me that a follow-up Times article on Nov. 25 — a broader look at Bloomberg’s corporate mission — was “much more accurate” and made the interview unnecessary.

Bloomberg’s insistence that its China exposé simply wasn’t ready for publication, and that therefore the original Times story was invalid, is off the point. The core of the Times story had to do with media self-censorship in China: A top American news executive’s telling his reporters that a story was being pulled back at least partly because it might get their news organization kicked out of the country. The details of Mr. Winkler’s conference call, in which he spoke to the reporters, are “verifiable,” The Times’s foreign editor, Joseph Kahn, told me. Other journalists, inside and outside The Times, mentioned the existence of audio recordings of that call.

This reads like a Wall Street Journal editorial page headline:

As Boomers Retire, We’ll All Be Detroiters Soon

Detroit, as in bankrupt government unable to afford its pensions. Alas, this is the news side, not the edit page.

There’s certainly a serious problem with Baby Boomers not having saved enough money for retirement—largely because of the rise of the 401(k).

But there’s really no need to go with the clickbait Fox News-style headline there. It’s just not true, so don’t print it.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,