Johnston retracts ’100 percent dead wrong’ Reuters column on News Corp.’s taxes

Reuters
David Cay Johnston has written a column explaining how he misread News Corp.’s tax filings, wrongly concluding that the company had received $4.6 billion in tax refunds. That’s how much the company paid. “For the first time in my 45-year-old career I am writing a skinback. That is what journalists call a retraction of the premise of a piece, as in peeling back your skin and feeling the pain.” The error, he explains, stemmed from the company’s change in reporting its tax payments as positive number to negative numbers. Reuters issued an advisory on the first column Wednesday afternoon and deleted it later that day.

The error, writes Craig Silverman on Regret the Error, is “a reminder that any of us can make mistakes. … But his response is also a reminder that it matters what you do after you discover your error.” Points against Reuters, he adds, for simply deleting the first post. That URL now goes to en error page. “Reuters should redirect that URL to the corrective column.”

Johnston appeared on NPR’s “Morning Edition” Wednesday morning to talk about his conclusions; a correction has been posted to that story. He came on again Thursday morning to explain his mistake. NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos called Johnston’s column “a model apology.”

Related: Why journalists make mistakes & what we can do about them

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  • Anonymous

    Look, what is happening to my beloved News Corp. — FOX News, WSJ, Dow Jones, the NY Post, the London Times — stinks. But the uneasiness I felt at them owning London tabs has finally resolved itself. Rupe can now sell the Sun and other rags while keeping the Times and 40% of SkyB.

    He needs to unload those London rags — he owns the FNC and WSJ and he cannot afford the perverse luxury of owning a tab that shows boobies on Page 3.

    He can also keep the NY Post — which is a great US tabloid. (I am thinking of framing my copy of “Osama been Wankin.”)

    BTW, I am a consumer of WSJ, FOX News, etc. I have never been an employee or even a shareholder. I am just one of those lowly 10-12% of the MSM who is a conservatarian — neither an apathetic independent nor a flaming liberal.

    BroMatt

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    MSNBC criticizes Obama all the time (from what I see written about it anyway – I don’t watch), albeit from the left. From what I understand, Rachel Maddow is particularly vociferous on this score. As for GE, how do you know that, about it not paying any taxes? Could it have been that huge, blow-out, investigative piece in the New York Times? The one that broke the news in the first place?

  • F. Douglas

    Excuse me, I mean News Corp, not Fox.

  • F. Douglas

    Isn’t it interesting that Fox paid $4.6 billon on a little over $10 billion in profits? That’s a tax rate of about 45 percent. Maybe Fox had some lousy tax attorneys. Compare that with GE, which owned MSNBC and which paid nothing in taxes last year. That’s a tax rate of 0 percent.

    Why is it the MSM focuses all its attention on Fox, when it comes to matters like this, and none on GE and MSNBC? GE and MSNBC had the mother of all conflicts of interest. MSNBC has been the leading cheerleader for the Obama administration; GE has been one of the major beneficiaries of government contracts — if not THE major beneficiary. Why is that not a story?

    Perhaps GE has also benefited tax-wise due to its friendly administration connections. We’ll never know due to the lack of curiosity on the part of the press.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Justin-Time/100002450686512 Justin Time

    It is bad form to end a sentence with the preposition “for.” In fact, it is very “eighth-grade.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EM4LH5YBE3THRPAPEEGUMK572M russ

    The writer is not a CPA. He is NOT an expert on accounting. Just an outsized ego.

    He finally got caught, just like that nutty Colo. professor finally got caught. Someone stood up to his BS and punched back. And he fell over like a ton of bricks.

    Never had any confidence in his reporting, like the nuts at “PolitiFact” who claim government does not control medicine in the U.S. Now, there’s proof-positive.

  • Anonymous

    “Yeah, don’t you just hate blowhards?” — “Yeah don’t you just hate obvious partisan hitmen?”

    You ask more questions than points made. Your style of attack is eighth-grade. Your logic, Dan, has always also reeked. Ad hominems over points made. If you don’t like what is said in a thread, say off that thread. Throwing tantrums because someone on “your team” took a well deserved hit makes you look foolish.

    Now please go back to whatever it is you do – whilst I enjoy watching David Cay drink his big, fat cup of karma.

    -BroMatt

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    Yeah don’t you just hate obvious partisan hitmen?

    Still, gotta give the guy some credit for using his actual name and standing behind what he writes (and fully owning up to it when he messes up) as opposed to being a pathetic coward taking cheap, schoolyard-puerile shots at people from the shadows behind a pseudonym. 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t hate anyone — but blowhard accurately describes both you and DCJ.

    The guy said News Corp. received a $4.6B tax refund. I knew a reporter who was canned for a far smaller — but a serious and avoidable – error about a utility co.

    DCJ should enjoy the Caribbean for a year or so and give the huffing and puffing on Olbermann a rest. Maybe he will stop being such an obvious partisan hitman.

    He tried, using his expertise on taxes, to join the lynching mob and to take an extra shot at Murdoch because he hates News Corp. and everything FOX stands for. (Olbermann, however, gets his appearances.)

    But when you take a shot a king, you don’t get to miss. He did. I laughed.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t hate anyone — but blowhard accurately describes both you and DCJ.

    The guy said News Corp. received a $4.6B tax refund. I knew a reporter who was canned for a far smaller — but a serious and avoidable – error about a utility co.

    DCJ should enjoy the Caribbean for a year or so and give the huffing and puffing on Olbermann a rest. Maybe he will stop being such an obvious partisan hitman.

    He tried, using his expertise on taxes, to join the lynching mob and to take an extra shot at Murdoch because he hates News Corp. and everything FOX stands for. (Olbermann, however, gets his appearances.)

    But when you take a shot a king, you don’t get to miss. He did. I laughed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    Yeah, don’t you just hate blowhards? 

  • Anonymous

    I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff, GrabPenny.com

  • Anonymous

    There are few blowhards as loud or pompous as David Cay Johnston, the self-appointed expert of the U.S. tax system. This is welcome news indeed.

    I only wish I had been physically present to watch the flaying of the “skinback.” Still, today and tonight I will drink deeply of wine and laugh at the prig. Splendid news. Splendid!