Tag Archives: Ethics


Bloomberg News reaffirms ban on covering itself


Bloomberg News editor-in-chief Matt Winkler has rejected an internal recommendation urging the company to change its policy and start covering itself, reports Peter Elkind of Fortune.

Elkind writes, “Covering yourself, of course, is awkward, but every other major media organization does it anyway. It’s standard journalism practice.

“At Bloomberg News, the ban on self-coverage has remained a formal part of The Bloomberg Way, Winkler’s all-encompassing rulebook, even as both the company and its majority shareholder became more newsworthy. Over time, this required ever-greater journalistic contortions.

“When Mike became New York’s mayor in 2002, for example, Winkler put a reporter in City Hall. But the coverage sometimes conspicuously excluded criticism of the mayor reported by every newspaper in town, as Editor & Publisher noted in a 2011 story discussing coverage of the mayor’s absence during a paralyzing blizzard.

“In 2012, Bloomberg News launched a global billionaires’ list, to rival the annual Forbes ranking. Although Forbes’ most recent version places Michael Bloomberg as the tenth-wealthiest American, with a $31 billion fortune, the mayor doesn’t appear in Bloomberg News’ tally. A special note explains that he ‘won’t be considered for this ranking’ because ‘Bloomberg News editorial policy is to not cover Bloomberg LP.’ Similarly, the company’s coverage of the financial data industry doesn’t include Bloomberg, even though it has the single biggest share of that market.

“In August, as part of a formal review of Bloomberg News practices triggered by a scandal in which company journalists were revealed to have special access to certain customer data, Bloomberg editor-at-large Clark Hoyt, a former New York Times ombudsman, advised ending the ‘no-cover’ practice.”

Read more here.

Bloomberg terminal

Bloomberg reporters receive bonuses for market moving stories


Julia LaRoche of Business Insider examines the practice at Bloomberg News of paying reporters part of their bonus based on how many market-moving stories they produce.

LaRoche writes, “This practice is not widespread in the financial news industry, and journalists we spoke to from other outlets were not aware that it is used at Bloomberg. We also canvassed traders, bankers and public relations professionals. None of them had heard this before, either.

“Most of the people we spoke to, especially traders, were startled to hear about this practice, worrying that it might create an incentive for Bloomberg reporters to ‘push’ or stretch stories with the specific aim of moving markets. Traders react instantly to headlines and news stories, and the decisions they make often make or lose significant amounts of money.

“We asked Bloomberg about the practice. A company spokesperson acknowledged it.

“‘It isn’t news unless it’s true. At Bloomberg News, the most important news is actionable. That means we strive to be first to report surprises in markets that change behaviour and we put a premium on reporting that reveals the biggest changes in relative value across all assets.’”

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Bloomberg complained to NYTimes about article


New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan writes Sunday that Bloomberg News complained to the paper after it published an article about a story it was working on in China.

Sullivan writes, “The Times story, which came from unidentified Bloomberg employees, included denials by Bloomberg news executives, including the editor in chief, Matthew Winkler, that the story was killed.

“A few days later, Bloomberg made a written complaint to me, through its ethics consultant Tom Goldstein, a former Columbia journalism dean. Mr. Goldstein called the article unfair and inaccurate. He criticized The Times for ‘sabotaging a competitor’ by describing the news in the unpublished article.

“After I began investigating the complaint by interviewing journalists at Bloomberg and at The Times, Bloomberg postponed and then canceled my scheduled interview with Mr. Winkler. A public relations representative told me that a follow-up Times article on Nov. 25 — a broader look at Bloomberg’s corporate mission — was ‘much more accurate’ and made the interview unnecessary.

“Bloomberg’s insistence that its China exposé simply wasn’t ready for publication, and that therefore the original Times story was invalid, is off the point. The core of the Times story had to do with media self-censorship in China: A top American news executive’s telling his reporters that a story was being pulled back at least partly because it might get their news organization kicked out of the country. The details of Mr. Winkler’s conference call, in which he spoke to the reporters, are ‘verifiable,’ The Times’s foreign editor, Joseph Kahn, told me. Other journalists, inside and outside The Times, mentioned the existence of audio recordings of that call.”

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Identity crisis at Bloomberg


Peter Elkind of Fortune magazine examines what is going on at Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Elkind writes, “Winkler’s achievements are considerable. He has built a formidable operation that goes toe to toe with the Journal on breaking business news. Today, with 2,400 journalists operating from 150 bureaus in 73 countries (the company has 15,500 employees overall), Bloomberg ranks as the third-largest independent news organization on the planet. Only Reuters and the Associated Press are bigger.

“But Bloomberg News is fundamentally different from other media organizations. It wasn’t even designed to generate income. It was created to help the company sell more terminals by furthering the moneymaking goals of those who lease them. (Customers’ average income: $438,000.)

“Winkler embraces the mission, telling his team that they write for ‘the people with the most at stake.’ Bill McQuillen, a reporter who left in 2012, puts it another way: ‘I used to say my job at Bloomberg was to help rich people get richer.’

“To be sure, there’s tension between business and journalism in every media organization. What’s unusual about Bloomberg is the alliance that has existed from the outset. In his autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg (whose cover cites Winkler’s ‘invaluable help’), Mike recalls spelling out the role of news in the Bloomberg universe on Winkler’s first day of work. ‘Our purpose was to do more than just collect and relay news; it should also, ethically, advertise the analytical and computational powers of the Bloomberg terminal by highlighting its capabilities in each news story. This would make each story better and, at the same time, make it easier to rent more terminals …’ He continued, ‘Most news organizations never connect reporters and commerce. At Bloomberg, they’re as close to seamless as it can get.’ The company instructs bureau chiefs to visit customers weekly; journalists regularly go along on sales calls. Over 23 years Winkler has built and enforced this system. Throughout he has been a fearsome defender of Mike and has been repaid with unstinting loyalty in return.”

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Edward Snowden

What happens after Snowden?


Once again, press freedoms are coming under fire as government officials cite national security as the reasoning for the questioning. The Guardian’s top editor testified before U.K. Parliament about publishing files obtained from Edward Snowden about surveillance.

The New York Times lead with a quote about intimidation:

The top editor of the British newspaper The Guardian told Parliament on Tuesday that since it obtained explosive documents on government surveillance from a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, it has met with government agencies in Britain and the United States more than 100 times and been subjected to measures “designed to intimidate.”

 The editor, Alan Rusbridger, said the measures “include prior restraint,” as well as visits by officials to his office, the destruction of Guardian computer disks using power tools and repeated calls from lawmakers “asking police to prosecute” The Guardian for disclosing the classified material in news articles.

Mr. Rusbridger was testifying before a Parliamentary committee looking into national security matters. He faced aggressive questioning from lawmakers, particularly those of the ruling Conservative party. Some asserted that The Guardian had handled the material irresponsibly, putting it at risk of interception by hostile governments and others. Others said that the paper had jeopardized national security.

At one point during the hearing, to his evident surprise, Mr. Rusbridger was asked whether he loved his country. He answered in the affirmative, noting that he valued its democracy and free press.

He also said The Guardian would “not be put off by intimidation” but would also not act recklessly.

Following Mr. Rusbridger in front of the committee, a senior British police officer, Cressida Dick, refused to rule out prosecutions as part of an investigation into the matter.

The Washington Post story began with paraphrasing Rusbridger defending press freedom:

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger on Tuesday vigorously defended his decision to publish a series of articles based on the secret files of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, telling a parliamentary committee hearing that the right to continue pursuing the story goes to the heart of press freedoms and democracy in Britain.

Rusbridger also told lawmakers that the Guardian had thus far published only 1 percent of the roughly 58,000 Snowden files it had received.

“I would not expect us to be publishing a huge amount more,” he said.

The hearing on the Guardian’s handling of intelligence data leaked by Snowden, now living in self-imposed exile in Moscow, drew the attention of free-speech advocates on both sides of the Atlantic. Rusbridger faced more than an hour of questioning by Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee on counterterrorism, testifying in an occasionally combative public grilling of both the Guardian and its editor.

Along with The Washington Post, the Guardian — a London-based news outlet with a print circulation under 200,000 but online readers numbering in the many millions — was the first to publish reports based on the Snowden leaks. In response, British authorities have acted far more aggressively than U.S. or other European officials, launching what Rusbridger and international free-speech advocates have decried as a campaign of “intimidation” against the paper. Actions taken so far include the coerced destruction of Snowden data being held at the Guardian’s London headquarters and public denunciations by Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as the decision to summon Rusbridger for questioning by lawmakers on Tuesday.

The Reuters headline and top talked about how journalists may face charges for reporting on the documents:

British police are examining whether Guardian newspaper staff should be investigated for terrorism offenses over their handling of data leaked by Edward Snowden, Britain’s senior counter-terrorism officer said on Tuesday.

The disclosure came after Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, summoned to give evidence at a parliamentary inquiry, was accused by lawmakers of helping terrorists by making top secret information public and sharing it with other news organizations.

The Guardian was among several newspapers which published leaks from U.S. spy agency contractor Snowden about mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s eavesdropping agency GCHQ.

Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who heads London’s Specialist Operations unit, told lawmakers the police were looking to see whether any offenses had been committed, following the brief detention in August of a man carrying data on behalf of a Guardian journalist.

Security officials have said Snowden’s data included details of British spies and its disclosure would put lives at risk. Rusbridger told the committee his paper had withheld that information from publication.

“It appears possible once we look at the material that some people may have committed offenses,” Dick said. “We need to establish whether they have or they haven’t.”

While not necessarily a business story, the issue should cause every journalist to wince in fear. It seems the news organization didn’t obtain the documents under false pretenses. But publishing information about the military and law enforcement could get the journalists in trouble. It’s a sticky question, but the world needs a free press in order to check abuses of power, seemingly exactly what happened here. Everyone involved with the media should be paying attention when the U.S. and the U.K. start trying to curb press freedoms.


Bloomberg reporter barred from Chinese press conference


British authorities have protested to Chinese authorities about a “completely inappropriate” decision to bar a Bloomberg journalist from a press conference in Beijing with David Cameron and his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, reports Nicholas Watt of The Guardian.

Watt writes, “No 10 raised ‘deep concerns’ on two occasions with Chinese officials after the foreign ministry excluded Robert Hutton, a political journalist with the US wire service Bloomberg, from the event at the Great Hall of the People on Monday.

“British officials in Beijing informed Hutton, a member of the British parliamentary lobby who is accompanying the prime minister to China, that he would not be admitted to the press conference.

“Hutton was informed of the decision by an official on a bus ride from Beijing airport after the prime minister’s overnight flight from London. The official said: ‘We have been told by the Chinese authorities that it would not be appropriate for you to attend.’

“The Bloomberg website is blocked in China after it ran stories about the wealth of families of senior leaders, including relatives of the president, Xi Jinping. Bloomberg last month denied killing a similar sensitive story after a New York Times report that said editors had been concerned its ability to report from China would be compromised if it ran the piece. Bloomberg said the article was still in preparation.”

Read more here.


China code has detractors at Bloomberg


A code used by Bloomberg News editors to keep sensitive stories away from the eyes of China’s powerful and elite has detractors within the organization, writes, Edward Wong of the New York Times.

Wong writes, “Within Bloomberg, the code has its critics. ‘I think of this as self-censorship,’ said one journalist, who added that editors choose to apply the code to any article that might offend senior Chinese officials. The code’s defenders, though, explained to their colleagues in internal conversations that Bloomberg must abide by the definition of its State Council license — or at least by the narrowest definition put forward by Chinese officials. Two Bloomberg spokespeople have declined to comment on the code.”

Wong later writes, “One Bloomberg employee said the existence of Code 204 can result in writers internalizing self-censorship. The code then becomes unnecessary because the writer has already decided to withhold information in order to ensure that terminal users in China can read the story, he said.

“‘If you wanted your story not to go by that code, then you don’t make sensitive references,’ he said. ‘This where the self-censorship gets self-reinforcing.’”

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Journalists chortle as Bloomberg CEO preaches press freedom


Andrew Kirell of Mediaite writes that many journalists in attendance made snide remarks Tuesday night when Bloomberg CEO Daniel Doctoroff chaired the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) annual International Press Freedom Awards dinner.

Kirell writes, “The irony was not lost on the journalists in the room, many of whom laughed and pointed out the bizarre situation.

“Bloomberg News has come under fire recently for suspending its Hong Kong-based reporter Michael Forsythe several weeks ago. According to The New York Times, employees claim that Bloomberg EIC Matthew Winkler refused to publish Forsythe’s long-form investigations into collusion between the Chinese government and powerful businessmen there.

“The same sources characterized the move as ‘self-censorship’ to protect the news organization from angering Chinese leaders and losing access. ‘If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China,’ Winkler allegedly told other staffers.

“Bloomberg’s top execs, including outgoing NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, denied such accusations.

“And yet, throughout Doctoroff’s speech, tables full of journalists were noticeably making comments and laughing at the irony of the situation. According to several attendees, there was an almost collective grumbling while Doctoroff spoke at length about the importance of press freedom during an event advocating for greater protections for international journalists.”

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Dan Doctoroff

Media figures support Bloomberg regarding China


Leading figures at old and new American news outlets defended Bloomberg LP CEO Dan Doctoroff’s role at a celebration of press freedom on a day when Bloomberg faced intense criticism over reports that it bowed to the Chinese government.

Rosie Gray and Ben Smith of BuzzFeed write, “Doctoroff chaired the annual Press Freedom Awards dinner of the Committee to Protect Journalists at Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, where host Scott Pelley denounced ‘those who censor, those who harm, and those who silence journalists’ before introducing Doctoroff, who called on the press to ‘stand together.’

“Bloomberg is ‘innocent until proven guilty in my book,’ said CNBC host Jim Cramer. ‘Dan Doctoroff is a great guy.’

“‘I absolutely think it’s appropriate for Bloomberg to chair this event,’ said the writer Kati Marton, a member of the group’s board of directors and the widow of the diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who said of the reports Bloomberg had killed a story about a top Chinese figure: ‘I wouldn’t call it a scandal.’

“A founder of Vice, Suroosh Alvi, also defended Bloomberg. ‘I don’t have a problem with it,’ he said.”

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China journalist calls for Bloomberg CEO to resign from CPJ freedom award


A prominent Hong Kong-based journalist has called on Daniel Doctoroff, chief executive officer of Bloomberg L.P., to step down from his role as chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual International Press Freedom Awards dinner on Tuesday.

Emily Brill of ChinaFile.com writes, “Ying Chan, who was an honoree at the same dinner fifteen years ago, called on Doctoroff to relinquish CPJ’s podium in the wake of the suspension of Hong Kong-based Bloomberg reporter Michael Forsythe on November 13. Forsythe was a leading member of the company’s respected China news team. Bloomberg employees told The New York Times that Bloomberg’s Editor-in-Chief Matthew Winkler said the company would not publish the China team’s latest long-term investigations on the financial ties of China’s top leaders to powerful buinsess interests. The employees characterized Winkler’s moves as self-censorship to protect the company’s interests in China, the world’s second-largest economy, which lacks a free press.

“Winkler and Michael Bloomberg, the outgoing New York City Mayor who owns the company, have aggressively denied the self-censorship allegations, saying instead that the contested stories are not ready for publication.

“‘As a former recipient of the [CPJ’s] Press Freedom Award, I think Doctoroff should withdraw from the dinner or he should be disinvited,’ Chan, now a Professor of Journalism at Hong Kong University and the founder of its Journalism and Media Studies Center, said in an email.

“The CPJ Awards dinner on Tuesday is set to honor four journalists from Ecuador, Egypt, Turkey, and Vietnam who, the New York-based organization’s website says, ‘face imprisonment or other persecution for exposing realities.’ The CPJ 2013 International Press Freedom Awards, is, the site says, ‘an annual recognition of the courageous reporting that defines free media.’”

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