OLD Media Moves

The fallout for Bloomberg in China, and in its newsroom

November 20, 2013

Posted by Chris Roush

Matt Schiavenza of The Atlantic writes about the implications surrounding Bloomberg News and reports that it has held up publishing articles in China deemed sensitive to the government.

Schiavenza writes, “The story, in many ways, is just beginning, and there are many unanswered questions. Will Bloomberg ultimately decide to publish a version of the story? And, if so, how will Beijing react? And, when Forsythe lands on his feet, what will he say?

“But these details obscure the larger point about the story. If Edward Wong’s reporting is true, and there’s still little reason to suspect that it isn’t, then the Chinese government has successfully intimidated a major American news organization into killing a story that the government deemed offensive. And not just any story, either—a major investigative report on a subject central to any understanding of contemporary China, a subject on which a similar report last year won The New York Times a Pulitzer Prize.

“The cynical explanation for Bloomberg’s decision to spike the story is that the parent company wanted to protect its lucrative terminal business, which helps sponsor Bloomberg operations worldwide. But the other explanation—that the company didn’t want to forfeit its access to China—is no less comforting. After all, what is the purpose of having access if a news organization refuses to run stories that displeasure the Chinese Communist Party? George Orwell’s famous quote on the purpose of journalism—that it consists of printing what someone else does not want printed—is especially vital in China, a country where the domestic media lack the wherewithal to do the investigations themselves.

“In agreeing to report on Wang Jianlin’s wealth, Mike Forsythe and Shai Oster understood that they were risking their safety to write the truth. Whether they knew that the greater risk would come from their own employer is another question.”

Read more here.


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