Owen Thomas of Valleywag writes that the sale of the 20 percent stake of Bloomberg LP by Merrill Lynch back to the company’s founder shows that quantifying journalism — such as measuring reporters by how much they write and how many times it is read — will be the wave of the future.
Thomas writes, “The Bloomberg way â€” ‘first word, future word, factual word, fastest word, final word’ â€” emphasizes speed and accuracy in evaluating its reporters. (Some aspects of the news operation’s culture may be shifting under new editorial leader Norm Pearlstine, but it’s hard to see those basics changing.) News has value when it is actually new, and helps Bloomberg’s customers make money.
“And for all that, Bloomberg News is a relatively small part of Bloomberg’s value proposition. Far more important are the prices that Bloomberg’s terminals flash across traders’ screens. News stories, in this scenario, are just one more commodity.
“Not all journalism lends itself to such coldhearted analysis. Political reportage is a vital public service and, in the absence of local newspapers, it is hard to imagine how it will get funded. (Ironic that Michael Bloomberg, the company’s founder, is now New York’s mayor.) But it’s hard to understand why business reporters, of all people, complain when their chosen career is treated like, well, a business. Merrill Lynch’s pending sale of its stake in Bloomberg points to a future when the news is worth more, and those who write it, only as much as their last story. Depressing? Only to journalism careerists.”
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