Tag Archives: Bloomberg
by Chris Roush
The Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) recognized Bloomberg News with four awards and three honorable mentions in the SOPA 2013 Awards for Editorial Excellence.
SOPA named Bloomberg News reporter Mehul Srivastava “Journalist of the Year” for a five-part series on how corruption in India is depriving its people of food. The “Mother India Starving Her Children” series showed how India’s people are eating less now than they did two decades ago, even after the country has seen record economic growth and bumper harvests.
The series was also awarded “Excellence in Human Rights Reporting” and “Excellence in Explanatory Reporting.” Reporters and editors contributing to the stories included Adi Narayan, Andrew MacAskill, Ben Richardson and Anne Swardson.
“We are grateful to be recognized by our peers in Asia for exceptional reporting,” said Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief Matthew Winkler in a statement.
Jason Gale, Adi Narayan and Bloomberg Markets senior editor Gail Roche were given the SOPA “Excellence in Feature Writing” award for “The Scourge of the Superbugs.” The story, published in the June 2012 issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine, takes readers on a global tour of the science, medicine, people and politics behind a new bacteria-altering gene dubbed NDM-1 that’s empowering germs to resist the most powerful antibiotics.
The SOPA Awards for Editorial Excellence are administered by the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong and were presented on June 6.
by Chris Roush
The top U.S. derivatives regulator won a legal victory over Bloomberg LP late on Friday when a court dismissed a case the data vendor had filed that claimed a new rule on trading swaps would hurt its business.
Douwe Miedema of Reuters reports, “Bloomberg is one of a dozen or so providers launching a platform on which to trade swaps, as regulators across the world crack down on the $630 trillion market to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.
“But that effort would be hurt by a new rule from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission which will force buyers and sellers of swaps to set aside enough money – or margin – to cope with the impact of a deal falling apart, Bloomberg had argued.
“That is because the margin on a swap should be enough to cover five days of unwinding the position, but only one day for futures, a similar type of product traded on rival exchanges, making them cheaper to use.
“The court said, however, that Bloomberg had provided no evidence that this requirement would hurt its business.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Lucia Moses of Adweek reports that younger readers are upset with Bloomberg Businessweek over its recent campaign aimed at them.
Moses writes, “Many of the reactions to the campaign have focused on its insensitivity to the economic challenges facing millennials and the implication that they’re lazy. (Businessweek acknowledges in small type at the bottom of the campaign home page that ‘the woeful state of the economy is not their fault’ and that the intent is ‘not to blame them,’ but that message apparently was overshadowed by the rest of the campaign.)
“‘Imagine being 22, crushed under student loan debt, embarrassed about not being able to find a job or start your adult life and being served a pithy e-card that gleefully announces that your family thinks you’re a failure,’ wrote J. Maureen Henderson on Forbes.com. ‘Now imagine wanting to support the business that came up with the idea for the cards in the first place. That’s just poor marketing strategy on Bloomberg’s part.’
“‘The boomers have dropped a debt laden atom bomb on the millennials and others and for them to comment is offensive to say the least,’ wrote one commentator, Edwin.
“‘There no jobs to get,’ wrote mje. ‘There are three adults to one job open. That is typical for a recessionary period. However, the economy has been expanding for at least 47 months.’
“Others took issue with the implication that Gen Yers are just freeloaders.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Jeff John Roberts of PaidContent.org interviewed Politico’s Jim VanderHei on its competition with Bloomberg Government to cover the intersection between business and politics.
Here is an excerpt:
Who scares you the most?
JV: Our core competition journalistically is the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times. Financially, our competitive sets are different. On issue advertising, it’s everyone from the Post to the Atlantic to Roll Call. When it comes to selling high-end subscriptions our competition is Bloomberg’s BGov and, to a lesser extent, CQ and National Journal.
Who scares me the most? The entity that should worry media companies the most is Bloomberg because they have huge ambitions and huge cash reserves and they clearly have an appetite for more Washington coverage.
What about the people who say Bloomberg’s Washington strategy has fallen short?
JV: It seems BGov hasn’t been as much of a success as Bloomberg had hoped. I would like to think that we’re one of the big reasons they’ve had trouble penetrating this market. Through Pro, we produce a product for each particular vertical and we have expertise in the Washington market. What might have hurt Bloomberg when they came into this market is that their expertise is fundamentally in financial information and New York. There’s a different type of expertise and reader here.
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Nicole Perlroth of The New York Times writes about how Bloomberg LP has invested in tech companies that its news operation writes about.
Perlroth reports, “It is not the first time that Bloomberg L.P. has put its money in technology companies. It is a limited partner in Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm with investments in technology companies like Facebook and Twitter. And until shutting it down recently, Bloomberg also ran its own incubator, Bloomberg Ventures, which helped build new businesses that could later be folded into Bloomberg products.
“But Bloomberg Beta is the first time that Bloomberg L.P. will reap profits from direct investments in some of the technology companies that its news operation covers.
“It is already an awkward time for the company, which is under fire because its reporters used Bloomberg’s financial terminals to snoop on companies they covered, including Goldman Sachs, and the fund raises questions on journalism ethics.
“‘This puts Bloomberg News’s credibility at issue,’ said Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘Reporters will not only be held to standards of accuracy and the like, but scrutinized for evidence of self-dealing and self-interest, which can be toxic to a news organization.’
“Bloomberg Beta’s partners say they will operate as a separate legal entity from their parent company, which is Bloomberg Beta’s sole investor. The firm will be based out of Bloomberg’s offices in San Francisco, where many of its technology reporters are also based.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Brill writes, “Second, Bloomberg is known for its rigorous training of reporters and a top-down control regime run by long-time editor in chief Matthew Winkler. So, if I were reporting this story, I would ask how much Winkler knew about this and whether he oversaw the training of his reporters to do the complicated maneuvers involved in pulling it off. He has not provided anything close to a full explanation of what happened.
“In fact, I can’t find one interview that Winkler has given since the scandal broke. He has only written an op-ed article that appeared in Bloomberg View, the site’s commentary section, saying, in part, ‘The error is inexcusable.’ What does he think the ‘error’ was? And who made it?
“Third, those $20,000 a year terminals are the core of the Bloomberg business that has made its proprietor, the mayor, one of America’s richest men. Everything else, including the news service whose reporters were spying on those $20,000 a year customers, is meaningless by comparison. At least where the company’s bottom line is concerned.
“So, ethical and legal issues aside, why were Winkler and his people allowed to endanger that core business with such a fundamental violation of trust? Bloomberg’s customers have long thought the $20,000 price was abusive enough, without knowing that they were paying $20,000 for the privilege of being monitored.
“Why would any business risk killing its franchise this way?
“Another question is why Winkler has not been reprimanded, much less fired, or even publicly criticized by Doctoroff. Which to me raises the question of who really is running Bloomberg. If the mayor is still ultimately the person in charge, reporters could examine why he has allowed Winkler to survive a mess that has undermined one of media’s richest franchises?”
Read more here.
In this five-part series, we’ll look at some of the challenges that young business journalists face in today’s media landscape. A common theme running through all five installments is the recognition that avoiding errors is a journalist’s first responsibility. News moves faster, farther and wider than ever before, and given the ever-increasing volatility of markets, the effect of incorrect news reporting can have shattering consequences: not just on the share price or business prospects of the company being written about, but on the media organization that faces legal liability and the exorbitant cost of legal defense.
The first installment is “Know Your Stuff,” where we’ll look at the need for business journalists to examine the nuts-and-bolts of the specific industry or subject they are writing about.
There is an old truism in journalism that any good business reporter could cover a house fire, but not all general assignment reporters can cover a tax investigation or a Food and Drug Administration recall.
Why is that? The simplest answer is that a shooting, a house fire, or a bus crash are events of easily understood cause and effect, and the impact of that kind of reporting is universal. By contrast, the events that transpire in the business world are not often understood by reporters and if mistaken, may create legal liability.
Defamatory meaning vs. bad news
Libel cases arise when a person makes a statement that (generally defined) impugns the reputation of the person or company written about, accuses them of wrongdoing, shameful or unethical conduct, or in some cases professional incompetence.
Although that sounds wide-ranging, this should not dissuade reporters from chasing such stories, but it does place the responsibility on them and their editors to recognize when they are indeed making such an accusation and once recognized, be able to prove the truth of the statement through facts disclosed in the story itself.
Similarly, the law recognizes that reporters and editors need the flexibility to determine what is simply run-of-the-mill “bad news” for the company and acknowledges the press’ need for freedom to meet a deadline. See, Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130 (1967) (Supreme Court discussing the necessity for rapid dissemination in weighing whether editors departed from applicable standard of culpability).
As usual, the extremes are easy to define. While an allegation that a company is under investigation for tax fraud is surely capable of defamatory meaning, a statement that a company lost 3 percent of its market cap is simply reporting the usual ups and downs of business. In the former example, one is worthy of scorn or opprobrium; in the latter, this is just what businesses go through every day.
The tricky part, of course, is being able to navigate through that great middle of the bell curve. For example, a reporter learns that a pharmaceutical company’s product is being recalled. That sounds bad and will surely have an effect on the share price. But is it defamatory? That depends on the context of the statement. Could it be reasonable to understand that saying that XYZ medication may not be safe and effective accuses the company of selling a bogus or even dangerous product? Absent more facts and reporting, many courts would not dismiss a libel case and would allow that question to be put before a jury.
Therein lies the challenge: serving the public interest of providing important (and possibly time-sensitive) news while still meeting the applicable legal requirements should the story be either incorrect, or carry an incorrect implication. That challenge is meet by developing the skill sets of specialized reporting.
Precision makes the difference
The skill that thoughtful reporters and careful editors employ in these situations is precision and a full understanding of the process and industry being reported upon. In this example, a reporter would be best advised to dig into what the recall really means. Here the law reminds us that what we leave out of an otherwise accurate story can create a defamatory implication.
In Tomblin v. WCHS-TV, unpublished, 4th Cir. 2001, available here, a television station accurately reported that a state agency was investigating allegations of sexual molestation at a local day care center. Unfortunately, the report failed to mention that the investigation was actually about what one child had done to another: nowhere was the day care center or its employees accused of molestation.
The plaintiff argued that this missing fact changed the meaning of the story, or in the alternative, carried a defamatory implication. The Court of Appeals agreed, saying that “a reasonable viewer could believe, falsely, that an adult at the daycare sexually abused a child, and thus the daycare center’s libel claim could proceed.” Id. The takeaway? What you leave out of a story can change its entire meaning, intentional or otherwise.
Let’s revisit the hypothetical about the drug recall. Like tax reporting, complex finance, accounting and aviation, the pharma beat is built on specialized knowledge and regulations. Reg Gale, deputy managing editor for U.S. health and science for Bloomberg News, is responsible for covering the pharmaceutical industry.
Gale often reminds reporters that words like “recall” have different meanings to industry specialists (and investors) than they might to ordinary readers. Ordinary readers would perceive a “recall” as a statement that the drug in question is dangerous, or may have caused dangerous side effects or harm, Gale says. In fact, “recalls are a regulatory process often loaded with language that is negotiated by the manufacturer and the FDA, and a ‘recall’ may be far less serious than one might think.”
For example, Gale explains, recalls can mean that the manufacturer has simply stopped making new shipments, has agreed to send warning advisories to physicians, or has restricted the recall to specific lot numbers or dates of origin. That’s a considerable difference than being “pulled off the shelves,” Gale says. Recalls do not necessarily mean that a product has been withdrawn from the market, and if misreported, the damage to a firm’s reputation (and sales) could bring serious legal liability.
According to Gale, in his experience less than 5 percent of recalls are unilaterally imposed by the FDA, and most recalls should – after fact-checking — be described as voluntary, or at the least, done in conjunction with the company and the FDA.
“It’s critical that reporters understand the technical language that the industry uses. The biggest mistake young reporters make is assuming they understand that language,” Gale says. “If you are not sure what something means, ask someone who does know.”
Don’t forget fundamentals
To be sure, while business reporters need to develop specialized knowledge to cover their beat well, Paul E. Steiger, former Wall Street Journal managing editor and current executive chairman of ProPublica, stresses the need for fundamental reporting skills. Newsrooms under Steiger’s leadership have garnered 18 Pulitzer Prizes, including two awarded to ProPublica in 2010 and 2011. “Data and documents are terrific, but they do not stand alone,” Steiger says. “Reporters need to get out there and talk to people about what those numbers mean. We should have reverence for outside voices explaining the facts that reporters gather.”
Emphasizing the use of good-old-fashioned reporting, Steiger tells an instructive story about what old-timers call “shoe leather” reporting. A tragic hotel fire had cost the lives of a publicly-traded company’s top leadership, and Steiger tells of assigning a reporter to find out what the future looked like for the company. When he saw the reporter siting at his desk, Steiger asked what he was doing. “Waiting for the flak to call me back,” replied the reporter. “Waiting for the flak to call you back?” Steiger recalls responding. “How do you know the flak wasn’t killed too? Get out there and start talking to people!”
The importance of making every effort to contact people – especially those accused of wrongdoing – “is absolutely crucial” as a fundamental skill, Steiger says, adding that there is no excuse to not make every practical effort to allow the story subject an opportunity to explain the facts and figures upon which a reporter is basing a story.
In my 12 years at Bloomberg, I helped developed the best practice of reporters building a paper trail of efforts to contact a story subject. In one instance, our reporter had gotten proof that a particular fund was being investigated for illegal insider trading. She had left messages for the fund’s manager, and got no response for two days. She finally called me, worried that she’d lose her exclusive and asked if we could publish.
Because the news in this case lacked immediacy, I suggested she write the fund manager a fax generally saying: “Dear Sir: I have been trying to contact you for three days about a possible SEC investigation of your firm, specifically the allegations [that such-and-such.] Your secretary has confirmed that you got these messages. We really want to provide you with the opportunity to tell us that we are wrong or in the alternative, that there is some explanation, but we cannot hold the story forever. If I don’t hear from you by tomorrow, we will not have the chance to include your side of the story.”
The letter went out, the deadline passed, and we published an accurate story. Nonetheless, a year later the fund sued for libel anyway. Although the plaintiff tried his best to meet his burden of showing that the story was inaccurate, I pointed out this letter to the judge and watched her become redder and redder in the face as she read it. She turned to the plaintiff’s table waving the letter at them and angrily said “Why are you wasting this court’s time?” She dismissed the case from the bench.
Lesson learned? Making every effort to contact those people you write about is not only a fundamental element of journalistic fairness but can also protect you from claims that you rushed a story to print and were unfair or irresponsible in pursuit of a story.
Developing expertise on your beat
The most dangerous thing a reporter can do is assume that he or she possesses specialized knowledge covering a complicated industry or company structure, and failing to get a reality check on his or her understanding of that structure. A few years back, Bloomberg BusinessWeek published a fascinating story about Market America, a merchandising company the writer described as “a multi-level marketing company that exploits the get-rich-quick dreams of every red-blooded American” and had promised huge profits for participants.
Replete with great color, the story showed the top man’s 350,000-square-foot mansion, the 150-foot yacht, the celebrity fetes and all the other trappings of wild success. The story also included accurate quotes from some people who felt that the company did not live up to their promises. In fairness, the reporter also went back to the company with the would-be millionaires’ complaints, and included the company’s view that those people had not applied enough effort to succeed.
The writer also called the company structure “dizzyingly complex” noting bewilderment the way “money flows in so many directions.” That’s where the reporter got off track: In the initial version, he had used the short-cut phrase “pyramid scheme” to describe the way that the company and its distributors were paid. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, “pyramid schemes” are illegal, and generate revenue for participants solely through the recruitment of other salespeople.
He failed to run his understanding of the payment structure past the company (or a forensic accountant), and as pointed out by angry PR executives (and their lawyers waiting in the wings) Market America specifically disallows distributors to sign up “pyramids” of other distributors. The reporter never came right out and asked company executives if it was a “pyramid scheme” and if not, why not. Though no lawsuit was filed, the assumption that the reporter made – that he truly understood the business model — resulted in a correction that took some of the shine off an otherwise great story.
Like Steiger, Gale also emphasizes “shoe leather” reporting skills as fundamental. He encourages reporters to attend industry-sponsored events where products or strategies are discussed and trying to attend presentations where the industry being covered is speaking to potential customers. On becoming an expert on your beat, Gale says “you can’t do it just from your desk.”
Gale also encourages reporters to read their competition faithfully, and look for the same expert names that keep appearing. The odds are that the more technical the beat is, the smaller the universe of experts. In addition, he suggests, become familiar with the technical literature of the beat, and mine those studies and reports for people who appear to really know what they are talking about.
Checklist for developing expertise
• Don’t assume that you understand a term of art or regulatory phrase. Ask someone who knows.
• Always make best efforts to present the story subject with your understanding of the structure or allegation of wrongdoing. At worst, you’ll get a “no comment” or denial, but you may just end up learning that you don’t fully understand the subject.
• You can’t own your beat from behind a desk or on email. Get out there.
• Read the industry literature, newsletters and trade journals. They not only provide a gold mine of resources for expert voices, but also leads on stories you might be able to bring to a wider audience.
Charles J. Glasser Jr. spent the last 12 years as global media counsel to Bloomberg News, responsible for litigation, ethical newsroom issues and pre-publication review, and was responsible for handling the work of more than 2,100 journalists on a 24-hour basis. Prior to joining Bloomberg, he represented a wide variety of news organizations including The New York Post, Readers’ Digest and NBC News. Prior to becoming an attorney, he was a journalist for 16 years. He is currently a consultant on media law and corporate communications issues, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Chris Roush
Susanne Craig and Jessica Silver-Greenberg of The New York Times write Friday about how Wall Street rivals Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan joined together to complain to Bloomberg about how its reporters were using the Bloomberg terminal to snoop on its bankers.
Craig and Silver-Greenberg write, “Goldman’s public relations chief, Jake Siewert, a former Treasury official, called his counterpart at JPMorgan Chase, Joe Evangelisti, with a simple question: ‘Do you have any issues with Bloomberg?’
“Before he could finish his sentence, Mr. Evangelisti began rattling off his grievances, say people briefed on the call. At the top of the list was a Bloomberg News article in 2011 that likened the strife in an Italian town after a bad deal with JPMorgan to the fallout from the Nazis’ occupation in World War II. He also mentioned another episode when a Bloomberg reporter surreptitiously obtained an access code to listen to a private conference call for senior executives.
“The two men shared one major concern: they believed that Bloomberg reporters were using the company’s data terminals to monitor Wall Street sources — the executives at the banks that were spending thousands of dollars a year to use the data-rich machines.
“That phone call lifted the lid on a long-simmering, but seldom discussed, tension between Bloomberg and Wall Street. This article is based on interviews with many of the people with whom Mr. Siewert spoke.
“There had long been suspicions among public relations executives that Bloomberg reporters might be using terminals to check up on bank executives. But one Wall Street chief executive, who spoke on the condition that he not be named, said recently, ‘I hate it when something happens that hadn’t occurred to me, and this situation certainly hadn’t.’”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Bloomberg LP CEO Dan Doctoroff has privately expressed frustration with founding Editor-in-Chief Matt Winkler’s Teflon status in the fallout from the company’s spying scandal, reports Mark DeCambre of the New York Post.
DeCambre writes, “A source said while Doctoroff has made his feelings known to some clients and colleagues, he has also indicated his hands are tied ‘right now’ when it comes to holding Winkler’s feet to the fire for the damaging data breach.
“Winkler — who wrote the company’s ethics and style handbook, ‘The Bloomberg Way’ — has admitted that Bloomberg reporters on his watch used the company’s ubiquitous terminals to gain access to proprietary information about clients, such as when they logged on and what functions they used.
“Sources present at a recent discussion with Doctoroff said he indicated that he wanted to hold Winkler more accountable for the offending practices but believed that his options were limited because of internal politics and long-held allegiances.
“Winkler maintains close ties with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tapped the then-Wall Street Journal reporter nearly three decades ago to build out the company’s bare-bones news operation. Bloomberg is now one of the largest news organizations in the world, with 2,400 reporters and editors.
“A spokesman for Bloomberg said any suggestion that Doctoroff is frustrated with Winkler is ‘simply untrue.’”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Three Bloomberg News editors are taking on new responsibilities.
Bret Okeson, (left) who has been a leader of company news in Asia, will be become Top editor in Tokyo, leveraging his Japanese fluency. Japan is the country with the most Bloomberg customers in the region and Okseon will have an essential role increasing Bloomberg News visibility in real time.
Okeson moved to Japan in 2004 from Frankfurt, where he had been a fluent German speaking auto reporter after studying on a Fulbright.
Peter Elstrom, managing editor for U.S. companies, will succeed Okeson, having mastered breaking news and the art of red headlines since joining Bloomberg News from BusinessWeek three years ago.
At BusinessWeek, Elstrom served as assistant managing editor in charge of technology. He will be fulfilling his aspiration to participate in the Asia story while overseeing reporters and editors in Japan, China, India, Korea and Taiwan.
Winnie O’Kelley, who joined Bloomberg earlier this year from the New York Times, where she was the deputy editor of the Business section, has taken on the role of coordinating and editing enterprise from companies news.
O’Kelley will work with reporters and editors globally to guide high-impact, market moving reporting and channel it to all Bloomberg platforms. O’Kelley specialized in business news for 20 years at The Times. She played a lead role in coverage of the financial crisis and recession, including the bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG.
She edited a series of articles about tax avoidance — “But Nobody Pays That” — by David Kocieniewski, that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for 2012. For excellence in business editing, she was the recipient of a Gerald Loeb award, known as the Lawrence Minard award, that year.
Elstrom and O’Kelley will report to Laurie Hays, who is executive editor for company news. Okeson will report to Adrian Kennedy, who is Top regional editor.