The New York Times, and the meaning of ‘recent’

Copy cat!

Yes, that’s a “copy cat” above, in case you were wondering.

At HousingWire, it’s become something of an accepted tradition in our newsroom to see the more general financial and business press take at least some of their editorial cues from our coverage. It’s happened numerous times throughout the years, especially as the financial crisis took off — and as the nation’s most-read trade outlet covering housing and housing finance, we’ve come to expect that more than a few non-industry reporters have come to depend on us as their “go-to source.”

But a story appearing at the New York Times this past week really caught my eye, because of how much it relied almost exclusively on a source we developed for coverage months earlier — for precisely the same story.

The New York Times coverage, “On the New Shopping List: Milk, Bread, Eggs and a Mortgage,” appearing November 13 and authored by Stephanie Clifford and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, discusses an allegedly “new” Costco mortgage program. It’s actually a program that former HW blogger Jessica Huseman uncovered in April, nearly seven months before the coverage appeared in the New York Times.

That the Times is covering something HousingWire wrote about more than half-a-year earlier isn’t the part that caught my eye: that happens all the time, although it is surprising to see the lag between when we covered it and when the Times got around to covering the same thing.

Instead, what caught my eye is the source the Times writers used: Dallas resident Lilly Neubauer. That’s because in a follow up story in late April, we used the same Mrs. Neubauer, getting her opinion on the Costco mortgage program — it turns out that Mrs. Neubauer was a personal friend of HW’s blogger, and that gave us the inside information on the unique mortgage program. 

Now, seven months after our orginal coverage appeared, the New York Times runs a story on the exact same program — and uses the exact same source that we originally developed.  

I especially find the opening sentence to the New York Times story ironic, referencing a “recent shopping trip” to Costco by Mrs. Neubauer, where she refinanced her home mortgage.

Apparently the New York Times ascribes a very different meaning to the word “recent” than we do here at HousingWire.

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