Harvard

Bloomberg's lazy Apple bias

May 11, 2013: 6:33 AM ET

You can almost hear the reporter -- or maybe the editor -- saying "Gotcha!"

389960992420FORTUNE -- Student activists at Harvard University like to pore over the quarterly filings of the Harvard Management Company for investments they find politically incorrect -- like Smith & Wesson (gun manufacturer) or Vale S.A. (Brazilian mining).

But when someone at Bloomberg News opened Harvard's latest SEC 13F what jumped out at them was the first line of the form: The sale of 100% of the university's holdings in Apple (AAPL).

They ran with this headline:

Harvard Liquidates Apple Stake After IPhone Sales Lose Steam

A good editor might have spotted couple of problems with that.

First, Harvard's stake in Apple before the sale amounted to a total of 571 shares, 0.03% of the university's $30.7 billion endowment, and according to Bloomberg the liquidation netted a total of $304,000.

The only other sale the story cited, 100% of Harvard's Warnaco Group holdings, yielded $42.3 million -- 140 times more than those Apple shares. There were even bigger liquidations in that 13F, but those were index funds with absolutely no editorial sex appeal.

The second problem with the headline is the bit about iPhone sales losing steam. See chart below.

Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 6.02.23 AM

Source: Company reports.

I've asked the reporter and editor on the story for a comment. No reply yet.

UPDATE: Not having heard from either of the journalists responsible for the story (why do they bother attaching their e-mail addresses, one wonders?) I've reached out to the head of their PR department, an old pal from Time Magazine days. He's aware of my piece, he says, but he and his staff are busy dealing with a considerably more damaging journalistic transgression. See Privacy Breach on Bloomberg's Data Terminals.

See also: About that Bloomberg report of "falling iPad mini demand"

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