How Bloomberg “News” Censors the News

Over the weekend, I was alerted to a fascinating story that I hadn’t read about before. It relates to a piece of investigative journalism led by two Bloomberg News journalists out of Hong Kong. The report focused on the financial relationship between a Chinese billionaire and political leaders and it was being led by Michael Forsythe and Shai Oster. Forsythe and Oster were also the lead reporters on a story that Bloomberg News ran in 2012, which exposed the massive wealth of China’s leadership. That story angered the Chinese elite to such an extent that they stopped buying terminals  from Bloomberg LP for a period of time and also suspended new residency visas for its news employees.

Apparently, the loss of revenue was enough to convince Bloomberg to abandon real journalism, because according to the New York Times, the organization’s head editor, Matthew Winkler killed the story. The journalists had apparently been working on it for a year and were understandably none too pleased to hear about it being shelved. We learn that:

BEIJING — The decision came in an early evening call to four journalists huddled in a Hong Kong conference room. On the line 12 time zones away in New York was their boss, Matthew Winkler, the longtime editor in chief of Bloomberg News. And they were frustrated by what he was telling them.

The investigative report they had been working on for the better part of a year, which detailed the hidden financial ties between one of the wealthiest men in China and the families of top Chinese leaders, would not be published.

In the call late last month, Mr. Winkler defended his decision, comparing it to the self-censorship by foreign news bureaus trying to preserve their ability to report inside Nazi-era Germany, according to Bloomberg employees familiar with the discussion.

Oh good lord, how desperate can you get to justify censorship. Somehow, the New York Times was able to report on JP Morgan’s bribes in China just last week despite also having its visas pulled.

Bloomberg News infuriated the government in 2012 by publishing a series of articles on the personal wealth of the families of Chinese leaders, including the new Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping. Bloomberg’s operations in China have suffered since, as new journalists have been denied residency and sales of its financial terminals to state enterprises have slowed. Chinese officials have said repeatedly that news coverage on the wealth and personal lives of Chinese leaders crosses a red line.

Of course they think that, which is why we have journalism in the first place. To write about it anyway.

The perception among some Bloomberg employees that the company is now unwilling to cross such lines has left them unsettled. More broadly, it has cast new light on the dilemma that numerous foreign news organizations confront as they navigate the pressures of doing both journalism and business in China.

Other news organizations have come under similar pressure. The websites of The New York Times, including a new Chinese-language edition, were blocked when it published an article in October 2012 on the family wealth of Wen Jiabao, then the prime minister. Like Bloomberg, The Times has also not received residency visas for new journalists.

But the investigative work has also won top prizes, most notably for the China family wealth series in 2012. Two of the main writers on that series, Michael Forsythe and Shai Oster, were the lead reporters on the recent tycoon story.

Editors at Bloomberg have long been aware of the need to tread carefully in China. A system has been in place that allows editors to add an internal prepublication code to some articles to ensure that they do not appear on terminals in China, two employees said. This has been used regularly with articles on Chinese politics, including the one on Mr. Xi’s family.

That’s some George Orwell type shit right there.

Editors at Bloomberg have long been aware of the need to tread carefully in China. A system has been in place that allows editors to add an internal prepublication code to some articles to ensure that they do not appear on terminals in China, two employees said. This has been used regularly with articles on Chinese politics, including the one on Mr. Xi’s family.

Bloomberg News has already come under criticism as word of the uncertain fate of the investigative China articles has slowly leaked out in recent days. An animation arm of Next Media, a powerful Hong Kong media company critical of the Chinese Communist Party, released an online video cartoon on Friday evening mocking Bloomberg for self-censorship.

The strongest reason he presented was the possibility of Bloomberg’s being evicted from China, employees said.

“He was speaking from a news perspective, not a sales perspective,” an employee said. Mr. Winkler also said he had read a lot about foreign journalists working under the Third Reich and wanted to formulate a strategy for staying in China as long as possible. “He said he was looking at the example of how news organizations worked in Nazi Germany, how they were able to stay there, how they were able to write in that environment,” the employee said.

Oh, but the story doesn’t end there. It gets a lot better, because apparently Bloomberg News has now fired Mr. Forsythe for being the apparent leak in the New York Times piece. The New York Post reports that:

Bloomberg L.P. has put a reporter suspected of leaking news about a controversial China story on unpaid leave, The Post has learned.

Michael Forsthye was escorted from Bloomberg’s Hong Kong office on Nov. 14, sources said, after he was fingered as the person who leaked embarrassing claims about how the news and data giant spiked a story that could have angered leaders in China.

Personally, I can think of more than one reason why Michael Bloomberg might want to spike a story about a billionaire oligarch’s cozy relationship with political leaders, but hey I’m just a paranoid conspiracy theorist.

Now let’s end the post with some laughs. The following video was created by Next Media, a Hong Kong media company critical of the Chinese Communist Party The video is two minutes and is epic. Definitely take the time.

In Liberty,
Mike

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4 thoughts on “How Bloomberg “News” Censors the News

  1. The Times said: “Most important for the larger Bloomberg company’s bottom line, financial news terminal subscriptions, which cost more than $20,000 per year and are the main revenue generator for Bloomberg, slowed for a spell in China, after officials issued orders to some Chinese companies to avoid buying subscriptions.” That action followed articles Bloomberg published in 2012 which embarrassed Chinese officials.

    A comedic public shaming video of the Bloomberg affair, similar to the Twitter-lashing of JPMorgan, was released by Next Media Animation, depicting a Bloomberg reporter chained to his desk and then lashed with a whip, ostensibly for leaking what goes on inside the news gathering empire of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The video notes that Mayor Bloomberg will shortly be leaving office and has announced plans to visit China to build greater business ties. While serving in public office for the past 12 years, the Mayor’s wealth has grown from $3 billion to an astounding $31 billion, according to Forbes.

    http://wallstreetonparade.com/2013/11/jpmorgan-and-bloomberg-news-leading-wall-street%E2%80%99s-blundering-herd/

    English version….
    Bloomberg News curtails investigative reporting in China, sources tell NMA

  2. The US and China are Oligarchies. If you are looking for ancient historical analogies, they have more in common with Sparta than the truly democratic Athens. For example, the US constitution is more inspired by Sparta’s check and balances to ensure “aristocratic rule”. It certainly has nothing to do with direct democracy.

    Anyway, I’m just waffling on here. China and the US are Oligarchies. Simple as that.

  3. This is just one example.
    Try posting a comment questioning the generally accepted message in mainstream propaganda on Iran and your comment will either:
    1. Never be posted or
    2. Removed or
    3. The entire article will be removed (and replaced by an in-depth commentary of the yesterdays game of football)

    I am here referring to comments advocating that some thought go into considering what Iran and its leadership really is and what their motivations are. The thought of readers beginning to think on this issue is just too dangerous to risk.

  4. Pingback: Editor in Asia Leaves Bloomberg News Citing Censorship | A Lightning War for Liberty

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