From: Greg Fisher
Sent: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 12:19 PM
To: Robin Abcarian, national correspondent, Los Angeles Times
Cc: Deirdre Edgar, readers' representative, Los Angeles Times; Russ Stanton, editor, Los Angeles Times
Subject: RE: credit score, employers, Los Angeles Times, anonymous sources
If those are your sources, you blew it.
The first item you cite does not include the word score. Just to be sure that SHRM was not referring to credit scores, I did something, apparently, unheard of in journalism: I asked them. I know—I know—it's CRAZY, but, I'm experimenting with the practice, you see. If you've never thought of using the principle, just try it! It works! If you get into trouble for spending too much time verifying the facts, blame it on me. Just have your boss contact me. We have a lot to hash out.
The second piece (from eHow) you cite states, ambiguously, "Find out your credit score, and embark on a job search realistically."
So, does that mean that employers use credit scores? Likewise, you could say: "Research little green men from Mars, and explore new worlds in the space program!"
To resolve the ambiguity, we are in luck: eHow is a subsidiary of a company just down the road from you! Together, we can get right down to the bottom of this, but you'll have to do the legwork. I can only spend so much money trying to track down sources. So, what is your policy on anonymous sources?
Regarding the third item, in your frenzy of copy/paste journalism, you left out this from Part 7 of the same Privacy Rights Clearinghouse document: "An employment report provides everything a standard credit report would provide. However it doesn't include your credit score or date of birth."
You quoted that source saying "See Part 7." Didn't you see Part 7? Part 7 is really the relevant part, isn't it? The relevant portion isn't all that other stuff you copied and pasted. Come on. Admit it.
A credit score is not a credit report. A credit report (a consumer report) is a list of debt account payment histories, collections, public records and other items spanning, in some cases, decades. A credit report is a document, and it can be quite extensive—pages and pages. A credit score is just a number.
Since your story, your publication made a correction regarding characters in a fictional television series. I know that it is fictional because it is based on a comic book. Well, OK, the comic book could be based on something real, I suppose, and I don't have any proof that zombies (or little green men) don't exist, but I'm going with fictional. So, your publication ran the zombies correction, but you didn't run a correction about employers and credit scores. Could we argue about zombies, instead? They are, obviously, more important to your company. And, in a world of fantasy, anything can happen, so no sources are needed. If we need a fact that suits our narrative, we just make one up, or use an anonymous crackpot as a source. You seem to have that down pat.
So who cares if one reporter carelessly reports that employers use credit scores? It's just one story—whoop-de-do!
Other items on latimes.com:
"Employers commonly check a potential employees credit scores."
"Virtually every bank, mortgage lender and credit card company--plus landlords, employers and even insurance companies--routinely has had access to consumers' scores."
"Utilities, landlords and employers also are increasingly checking credit scores."
A few years with your paper and a few other previously respected publications repeating that and you have something that just won't die, and, indeed, continues to grow. The irresponsible use of your power in tiny doses is awesome. Maybe that slippery slope is how it has always been. Only now, small media can expose big media as it truly is.
For your follow-up story assignment, as you'll be doing with your other source at eHow, put on your shoes and socks and drive over to Experian's office (you have to ask yourself: What in the world is going on in Southern California?) and interview them. The agency claims that it does not provide credit scores for employment purposes. On its credit myths page, Experian says: "Experian's Employment Insight report includes similar information about loans and credit cards that is listed in the credit report. It does not include year of birth, spouse reference, account number or credit score, which are irrelevant to hiring decisions."
The consumer reporting agency, itself, thinks that the overall meaning needed some clarification. Maybe you could try to change the company's position on that overall meaning thing. On the other hand, on a page for ordering a Fake-O credit score, Experian also says, "By checking your credit report and score you will see the same type of information lenders, landlords and employers see."
The Credit Scoring Site
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio 45409-0342