Bloomberg’s Micklethwait on layoffs, reorganization
Bloomberg News editor in chief John Micklethwait sent out the following email to the staff on Thursday:
To All Bloomberg Editorial & Research:
As a newsroom, we have learnt a lot over the past 12 months. At our best, we have been unbeatable. Look at the way we covered Covid and markets, or at the way that BI and BN have worked together over earnings. We have got much better at using audio and video, and, even if our hope remains to all be back in the office soon, we have proved that we can work from home in ways that did not seem possible. We have excelled when we have been flexible, worked across teams, and focused on what the customer wants.
However, we all know that we also “lost” stories because we moved too slowly. Teams waited for somebody to back-read a piece or ignored the requires from the News Desk to get a blast out quickly. Managers spent too much time setting up conference calls when they should just have been writing. Or teams suddenly delivered enterprise pieces that nobody wanted.
Covid has highlighted these strengths and weaknesses. But in truth they have been evident for some time. We need to have more ownership and accountability.
In light of this we have decided to reorganize, and sadly this has meant losing some of our colleagues. This was not a step that we took lightly. But we have always sought to make the newsroom better — to make us more nimble, to improve our content, and to help us “chronicle capitalism” in an even more comprehensible way.
The main aim of the new structure is to elevate editing. A system that relies on somebody further down the production line correcting errors means nobody owns a story. We need an accountability: you sign off on a story only when you think it is ready to publish. You are responsible for it. We also need editors who can work for more than one team.
Under our new structure, most of the editors will report to managing editors, who can allocate them to teams, story by story. That will allow team leaders and reporters to focus on news gathering and writing stories. We will also strengthen our regional editing hubs, so there are more senior editors for the most important stories and features. All editors will be expected to work across groups.
For the most part, we will stick to the principle of one story, one editor. No more unnecessary back-reading or re-editing. Yes, of course there will be more complicated pieces that require senior managers to be involved, but these are the exceptions. We either trust an editor to handle a story, or we don’t. If we don’t like the end result, we give the editor candid feedback. The expanded hubs will also be ready to help.
Agility matters. Yes, editors may have areas of specialization and of course we should draw on that expertise, but that doesn’t mean they should edit stories in only that field. Editors should want to work across a variety of stories to make their own jobs more interesting and to continue to challenge themselves. The attitude has to change from “not my patch” to “all hands on deck,” with more editors picking up stories and getting them done.
If reforming our editing is the big driver of this reorganization, we are also reallocating some responsibilities, in some cases driven by the fact that some team sizes are changing. The Financial Regulation team in the U.S. will move from Government to Finance. The Economic Data group will join the broader Economics group, while Steve Foxwell’s Data News and Curation teams become part of Breaking News, reporting to Katherine Cho. Claudia Quinonez and the Automation team will move across to Monique White’s Technology and Tools group. Reporters and editors in the current Emerging Markets team will join the other asset class teams and the broader Markets editing group. Industrials and Autos in the US will also combine. our ESG and Hyperdrive teams will merge with Green under Aaron Rutkoff.
I think these changes will make many of your jobs more interesting and give you a bigger say over the stories that you write and edit. But like all changes, there will be a period of adjustment. Quite a few people have changed reporting lines; we don’t expect everything to be perfect overnight. Some groups are affected more than others and there will be obvious pain points. We need to be ready to help our colleagues as much as possible while they work their way through the transition. We will outline more details about the three main hubs over the next few weeks. We will also look to hire and expand in priority areas like data-journalism. We will also cover a bigger footprint of companies, and in more depth. We aim to end 2021 with as many journalists as we had before the pandemic — and with more analysts. Throughout this year we will look for more ways for reporters and managers to take greater ownership of stories and beats — and we remain committed to furthering diversity across Editorial & Research at every level.
I am not going to pretend today is a happy day for the newsroom. It is always painful to tell journalists that they are losing their jobs. But it is also a start of a new chapter in our efforts to be the chronicle of capitalism. We have enormous resources; we should use them as well as we can. We need to recommit to the principles of precision, rigor and fairness that have been the hallmarks of Bloomberg News since its inception. As Matt Winkler occasionally pointed out, the best is yet to come.