Bloomberg’s growing China problem
Dean Starkman of Columbia Journalism Review writes about Bloomberg News and its coverage in China in the wake of chairman Peter Grauer stating earlier this week that the company needs to rethink whether it does investigative reporting in the country.
Starkman writes, “Say a ‘business’ story about a failing company turns up accounting problems, and that leads to discoveries of irregular transactions with a related party, and the related party turns out to be controlled by a local political boss, and the local political boss has business interests with senior part officials, etc. Where does the reporting stop, exactly?
“And another thing: it’s not clear how Bloomberg’s 300,000-plus subscribers—many of them investors in China— are well-served by a news service that purports to cover a country but declines to engage in ‘investigative’ stories that might document institutionalized corruption. Speculators and traders might not care about such things, but investors with long-term interests might care a lot.
“Third, and most important, the specter of Bloomberg implicitly or explicitly curbing its journalism in China affects more than its coverage in a single country and speaks to the integrity of Bloomberg News, certainly in the dictionary sense: ‘The state of being whole, entire, undiminished.’ Just as Bloomberg can’t hive off ‘investigative’ reporting from ‘financial’ or ‘business’ reporting, it can’t pretend that its China news policy, whatever it may actually be, doesn’t have implications for the rest of the news operation. Can a news organization follow a set of guidelines in one country and another set in another? I don’t see how.”
“Integrity is something Bloomberg, the company and the news organization, takes very seriously. As its style manual, the Bloomberg Way, says (emphasis in the original): ‘Three things characterize the people who follow the Bloomberg Way: integrity, commitment, and gratitude. Without integrity, there is no value in anything we do…'”
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