Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Times Flip-Flops on Credit Cards

The New York Times yesterday ran a simply atrocious front-page article on the credit card legislation that is sailing through Congress. CJR's Audit column has a good rundown of the article's deficiencies, which included omission of a basic fact--that credit card companies make money from every transaction, through fees paid by merchants.

The article basically swallowed the credit card industry's line that the pending card legislation would hurt good customers who pay off their balances every month, since such "deadbeats" are subsidized by the absurd fees and charges paid by millions of consumers.

By not mentioning the transaction fees, which let the card companies profit from "deadbeats" and interest-payers alike, the article was downright misleading.

Today, the Times ran what was tantamount to a front-page correction, in the form of a column by Ron Lieber. He points out allt he stuff that yesterday's article didn't have, and downplays the possibility that card issuers will withdraw all the perks cardholders currently get. After all, there are transaction fees!

Nowhere is yesterday's article mentioned, which is understandable I suppose. But still, the Times has run two contradictory front-page articles on consecutive days, and the overall impression is a bit rancid--and odd, considering that the Times has pushed hard for card reforms in its editorial page.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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