Felix Salmon of Reuters writes about how Bloomberg News is changing in the wake of layoffs this week and a disclosure earlier this month that it was not publishing sensitive stories in China.
Salmon writes, “I got a phone call this afternoon from one Bloomberg employee of very long standing, who used terms like ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘culture of fear’; he said that he had never seen anything like this during his long career at the company. Employees were even reportedly flocking to the local Starbucks to view the latest NMA video about Bloomberg News on their phones, because they didn’t dare watch it on their work computers.
“If you take a step back from the chaos, however, it’s possible to see the beginnings of a deep change in how the Bloomberg newsroom is run. The message I’m getting from the layoffs is that Bloomberg is finally growing out of Winkler’s insecurities, and is beginning to shape the newsroom into more of a means to an end, and less of an end in itself.
“To understand what’s going on, it’s important to have a vague feel for where the power really lies within Bloomberg LP. Winkler is undoubtedly a powerful man — he oversaw the rise and rise of Bloomberg News, and he is a close confidante of Bloomberg, co-writing Bloomberg’s autobiography along the way. But while Winkler is powerful, he’s no Tom Secunda. Secunda, a co-founder of the company, is the other Bloomberg billionaire, the man in charge of basically everything which makes money at Bloomberg. And Secunda is the opposite of a romantic press baron: all he’s interested in is profitability.
“Winkler’s enormous achievement, of building one of the world’s foremost news organizations from scratch, required an aggressive, underdog spirit. Bloomberg News is a highly competitive organization, and Winkler wanted to beat everybody, on everything, all the time. His goal for Bloomberg News was always that it be faster, broader, deeper, more accurate, more trustworthy — on every story, compared to every competitor.
“That goal, however, put Winkler at odds, to some degree, with Secunda, whose only priority is client service, and giving Bloomberg subscribers whatever they want. And it turns out that Bloomberg subscribers, although they definitely want market-moving news ahead of anybody else, are much less fussed about the broad mass of news stories which don’t move markets.”
Read more here.