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the hidden financial ties between one of the wealthiest men in China and the families of top Chinese leaders, would not be published.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.