the audit

Audit Notes: Swiped, Hit List, Journo Demographics

January 9, 2012

Bloomberg News has an interesting story on a dispute between a Utah restaurant and Visa and Mastercard.

The card companies say the restaurant was lax about protecting card numbers that ended up being used in more than a million dollars worth of fraud—something the restaurant’s owners deny.

What’s stunning is that the bank just started withdrawing money from the restaurant’s account without having any finding of fact, much less a court ruling:

In September 2008, the McCombs found that US Bancorp was taking money from its account, they said, with deductions eventually reaching $10,172. To prevent further seizures, they closed the account and found a new bank and processor, they said.

“It was at the end of the month and we had to pay our payroll,” Cissy McComb said. “Elavon was taking every dollar out of the account.”

Bloomberg doesn’t give us much context, which I’m sure is hard to come by. Namely, how often do card companies go after merchants?

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This National Retail Federation quote makes it sound like this could be a much broader story:

“There’s a suspicion among many merchants that PCI (payment-card industry) is a near scam wrapped in good intentions,” Duncan said by phone from Washington. “The dissatisfaction with PCI and the financial consequences of it in the retail industry are rampant.”

The New York Times goes page one with a report on a Gingrich-backing super-PAC running a vicious attack ad highlighting Mitt Romney’s private-equity career, which has become fertile ground for investigative journalists.

I thought it was overkill at first to put a story about an ad on page one, but this deserves it. Keep in mind this ad attacking predatory capitalism is supporting a Republican candidate:

This is probably the first political ad in history where someone says they might be taken out for talking negatively about a candidate:

You’re going to be on a hitlist, you know that?


Forbes‘s Jon Bruner has a smart piece on journalism demographics.

He looked at LinkedIn profiles of journalists to get a glimpse at much we resemble average Americans:

Before going to News Foo, I built a Python script to scrape the LinkedIn profiles of everyone at the conference. Ten percent of the conference’s attendees went to Harvard. Of course, that’s not quite representative of the news industry as a whole; widening my LinkedIn search, I found that 2% of employees at a handful of national media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Dow Jones, went to Harvard. That’s a much smaller number than the 10% for News Foo, but it’s still huge by the standards of America as a whole: my quick calculation suggests that about 0.03% of American adults went to Harvard. Someone sitting in the News Foo auditorium is over 300 times more likely than the average American to have gone to Harvard; an employee of one of the national news organizations I surveyed is over 50 times more likely than the average American to have gone to Harvard…

Journalists are also much more likely than Americans in general to live in New York or Washington. Seven percent of reporters live in the New York-White Plains metropolitan division, which is home to 3.8% of the American population. Five percent of reporters live in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan division, home to just 1.4% of the American population. So a reporter is nearly twice as likely as the average American to live in New York and three times as likely to live in Washington. That alone certainly engenders a unique cultural outlook.

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.