Creative Accounting in Medialand

The news media have criticized the tangled finances of companies like Enron and WorldCom, but Howard Kurtz notes that many of them are engaged in similar deals themselves. For example:

  • The New York Times struck a "newsprint swap agreement" with Enron -- a financial deal in which no physical assets changed hands. The deal was disclosed in the fine print of the newspaper's SEC filings but not in editorials that slammed Enron for "accounting shenanigans."
  • The Chicago Tribune and Washington Post have editorialized against companies for not counting executive stock options as expenses, even though they did the same thing themselves last year, to the tune of millions of dollars. So did AOL Time Warner, the Gannett publishing chain, Knight Ridder, Dow Jones (the publisher of the Wall Street Journal), and the parent companies of ABC, NBC and CBS.