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Grapevine Whine - "Misreading" the New York Times?

Reported by Nancy - November 29, 2005 -

Brit Hume's week-long vacation doesn't seem to have improved his attitude. Hume led off his Grapevine segment on Special Report last night (11/28) with an item that attacked -- surprise, surprise -- the New York Times.

At 6:27pm (ET) Hume read a teaser: "retailers are happy but the New York Times finds a cloud over the weekend anyway." Following an ad break & headlines, he then led off the Grapevine with this "picking;"

US retailers recorded sales of $27.8 billion over the Thanksgiving weekend & the National Retail Federation says the industry is on track for its second biggest season since 1999. Weekend sales were up 22% over a year ago and discount chains and online retailers reported record sales. So how does The New York Times report the good news? On the front page of its business section, The Times notes that shoppers avoided mall-based specialty stores in favor of the discount retailers, reporting that Friday's mall sales dropped nearly a full percentage point from last year.

Comments: Is Hume incapable of reading? Does he assumes his viewers are equally incapable? The article is a (dare I say it?) fair & balanced look at the start of the holiday shopping season. Here's the article, Mall Stores See Trouble in Sales Data . Read it carefully. Note that it does indeed mention both the positive & negative shopping trends from the holiday weekend. Those are called FACTS, for FoxFans unfamiliar with the concept.

Here are the key excerpts:

... consumers mobbed discount chains ... but largely shopped right past other specialty retailers at the mall. The disparity, analysts said, could indicate a tough season ahead for clothing retailers like Gap and AĂŠropostale and even deeper discounts for shoppers....
ShopperTrak, which measures purchases at 45,000 mall-based merchants, found that sales for the day after Thanksgiving fell 0.9 percent from last year, to $8.01 billion, a figure not adjusted for inflation.
The winners ... were the discount chains with locations outside the malls, apparently the beneficiaries of an 11.4 percent increase in weekend spending among Visa USA cardholders. Wal-Mart reported that a record 10 million shoppers walked through its doors before noon Friday. ... the company said Friday sales "exceeded plans" and that consumers continued to shop after the early discounts expired.
It appeared that the Web snatched at least some of the traditional mall business. ComScore Networks, a market research firm, said online purchases rose 22 percent for the day after Thanksgiving, to $305 million.
Discounting at mall-based stores nevertheless may have lowered their overall sales for Friday, said Bill Martin, one of ShopperTrak's founders.
... the National Retail Federation stood by its forecast for the holiday season yesterday. It expects sales to rise 6 percent over 2004, which would make this year's performance good, but by no means great. Since 1999, when sales grew more than 8 percent, merchants have learned to live with more modest gains.
In a survey of more than 4,000 consumers over the weekend, the federation found that 61 percent made purchases at discount retailers, 47 percent at department stores and 41 percent at specialty stores. Over all, it estimated that the weekend's spending would rise 22 percent, to $27.8 billion.
A handful of department stores proved a bright spot at the mall. J. C. Penney ... said Black Friday broke a record for customer traffic and sales.
[Visa] said purchases of computers and electronics, a category ShopperTrak largely overlooks because the biggest sellers have moved out of the malls, rose 20.6 percent. Spending on home furnishings, meanwhile, jumped 14.1 percent. "You don't make those kinds of purchases if you are not feeling somewhat comfortable with your financial position," said Paul Cohen, a vice president at Visa.

And how's this for a booboo (emphasis added):

*Hume: "US retailers recorded sales of $27.8 billion over the Thanksgiving weekend"

*NYT: "it [the National Retail Federation] estimated that the weekend's spending would rise 22 percent, to $27.8 billion.

Which was it? Recorded or estimated?

Sounds to me like Hume was just whining because the article wasn't a 30-second cheerleading soundbite. On this story, Fox has to cede the "fair & balanced" tagline to the New York Times.

If you'd like to complain to Fox about this, email: [email protected]

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (Hume's apparent incomprehension of a simple newspaper article, Fox's repeated attacks on the New York Times). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.