When business writers use bad quotes

The latest from Testy Business Copy Editors.


Wall Street is throwing the most money at U.S. energy companies since at least 2000 amid growing confidence that the industry is emerging from the worst downturn in a generation. – (Bloomberg)

Don’t get confused. Contrary to popular opinion (and many careless business writers), “Wall Street” usually doesn’t throw money at companies at all.  The beneficiaries, though, can include company executives who get stock along with their salaries (although they might not, or cannot, dump their shares to reap the profits, lest doing so trigger a selloff and spoil the fun for others.

(Don’t say “since at least 2000.” Find out when it was.)

Investopedia has a useful primer, “Why do companies care about their stock prices?” Rookie editors, and not a few veterans, could stand to read it.


In case you had started to doubt it: People still love the iPhone. …

 “We’re thrilled to report that our holiday quarter results generated Apple’s highest quarterly revenue ever, and broke multiple records along the way. We sold more iPhones than ever before and set all-time revenue records for iPhone, Services, Mac and Apple Watch,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive.Washington Post

Who doubted it? Who cares? Cut to the chase. For example, what was the previous highest quarterly revenue? What were the previous revenue records for iPhone, Service, Mac and Apple Watch?

Why not find the numbers, and report them?


“We’re using almost a hundred percent more tires to produce the same mileage of transportation,” FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith told the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Wednesday. “Why is that? Because the road infrastructure has so many potholes in it, it’s tearing up tires faster than before.” NPR

Interesting if true. But we shouldn’t just report such statements without checking with other sources to make sure they’re plausible.

You could start with the Tire Industry Association, a trade group. It’s true that association members are interested in selling more tires, but it’s a start. State highway administrations in might have relevant information, like where the problem (if there is one) is the worst. Ask some truck makers about wear and tear. Do something. Don’t rely solely on FedEx.


Cooper Hefner, “chief creative officer” of Playboy:

“When you have a company, and the founder is responsible for kick-starting the sexual revolution, and then you pluck out that aspect of the company’s DNA by removing the nudity, it makes a lot of people, including me, sit and say, ‘What the hell is the company doing?’”New York Times

Generating publicity, that’s what, just like the announcement that nudity is returning to the magazine.

The Times’ story, which ran in Business Day, has very little business. It mentions that Playboy hopes to sell more ads and get more exposure on newsstands, and that’s it.

Aside: The Times used a hackneyed lede (Playboy is returning to the bare essentials) but that’s no surprise, however disappointing. More puzzling is why Science Times ran the story, including the bare essentials.


Empty quote of the week:

We’re pleased to offer these competitive jobs that come with the opportunity to grow careers,” said David Hupper, senior vice president and regional leader in Albuquerque.Albuquerque Journal


Phillip Blanchard is a former business editor at the Washington Post. Previously he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times and newspapers in upstate New York. He is founder of Testy Copy Editors.



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