OLD Media Moves

Examining Bloomberg's role in the United Airlines bankruptcy snafu

September 23, 2008

Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review takes a look at the role Bloomberg News and its terminal played in distributing the false story two weeks ago that United Airlines was in bankruptcy court protection and how it moved to correct the bad information.

Bloomberg NewsChittum writes, “It’s a bit silly, though, to blame Bloomberg because its terminals carried erroneous information from a third party. That would be sort of (but not quite) like blaming Google and YouTube for this guy. A Bloomberg is an information conduit; it offers a variety of sources, and that is part of its strength. Dow Jones here is merely criticizing Bloomberg for offering more information, which should give you an idea why DJ had so much trouble with Bloomberg over the years. (Background available here:)

“The more things you offer, the more mistakes you make. Put another way, and as every bad editor knows: if you don’t do anything, you’ll never screw up.

“Still, though (and unlike YouTube), Bloomberg LP isn’t entirely blameless since it performs a journalistic function by controlling who is and isn’t allowed to post on its terminal. Thus it is ultimately responsible for any bad information that makes it on there.

“There were a litany of breakdowns in the new media newsgathering process with the UAL story, but the role of the powerful Bloomberg terminal in amplifying the bad information should at least be considered. It’s not to say the model is flawed, but, again, without the terminal, nothing much happens here. Something to think about in these nervous times.”

Read more here.

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