OLD Media Moves

Bloomberg grew while other newsrooms shrank

October 6, 2006

Slate’s Jack Shafer examined why Bloomberg News has continued to grow and expand its operations while other newsrooms are shrinking.

Shafer wrote, “During this shrinking era, a news service started from scratch and entered in the ultracompetitive field of business journalism and has thrived almost to the point of dominance. The outfit, Bloomberg News, now employs 1,700 reporters and Bloombergeditors in 127 bureaus worldwide, and its wire service routinely supplies most top papers with business news and briefs. As other publications have shed older, high-paid journalists, Bloomberg News has hired them: Al Hunt (Wall Street Journal), John M. Berry and Charles Babcock (Washington Post), Margaret Carlson (Time), and Roger Simon (U.S. News & World Report), just to name a few. Yes, dinosaurs all, but each conveys to readers credibility and cachet that only money can buy.”

Later, Shafer wrote, “Bloomberg’s human-generated news stories are only slightly warmer to the touch. Many are written to an old template that requires lede sentences to contain a number. Words such as ‘but’ (too abrupt), ‘flat’ (markets aren’t curved, how can they be flat?), and ‘uncertainty’ (markets move for a reason) are subject to banishment by editors. Words that signify something demonstrable, such as ‘biggest’ or ‘first,’ are preferred. Even if Bloomberg News reporters desired to produce well-crafted prose, how often would they have the time? In this competitive beat, five seconds separates an ‘atta-boy’ scoop from the shame of getting beat by Reuters. Theirs is the ultimate news-you-can-use for the most demanding and wealthy readers in the world.

“To use an old 1990s software cliché, Bloomberg excels in producing granular news. It doesn’t matter much to your pocketbook if the price of a barrel of oil moves 10 cents, nor is a record of that movement likely to find a place in your daily newspaper. But fortunes are made on smaller price swings than that, which means very small audiences will pay handsomely for the micro-news Bloomberg delivers inside of micro-news cycles. This turns the daily newspaper concept inside out: Dailies strive to discover and report news that appeals to the many. For that reason, nobody should live on a steady diet of Bloomberg. You’d get scurvy. Still, the Bloomberg operation has earned Gerald Loeb Awards, bestowed mostly by a panel of other business journalists, for its work.”

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