NYT Business Section Needs Business Lesson

geffen_head_vintage.jpgWhen ‘bistro strat guy Bill Conneely started frothing on the bus, we were afraid someone would call the cops. Bill, you see, had just read this paragraph in the New York Times about the ongoings at the LA Times and whether it’ll sell to a new owner:

Music mogul David Geffen (pictured, via BBC) “has said he would buy the paper with his own money and would be happy with a 5 percent return on investment, far below what The Los Angeles Times has said is a 20 percent profit margin now.”

Now, geeks like us know return on investment does not equate to profits. You can make 99 percent profits, but still have no ROI if you’ve spent too much on a company. Likewise, you can have no profits but be making lots of cash, and have very good ROI if you, say, sell the company for a lot more than you paid.

In other words, it’s apples and oranges, and Bill’s really upset when those two fruits are compared. We know, we know, it’s the 26th paragraph in a 27-paragraph story, and reporters Katharine Q. Seelye and Jennifer Steinhauer probably turned it in close to deadline, and all those bleary-eyed editors had done a bunch of other stuff that night, and so no one caught this little eensy bit.

But, still, it’s the New York Times‘ business section, ya know?