Bloomberg’s editorial policy on China

November 10, 2013

Bloomberg has been criticized for censoring its coverage in China, highlighting a complicated conflict between journalistic ideals and reach.

The New York Times reported Friday that an investigative report into the monetary ties between a Chinese tycoon and the “families of top Chinese leaders” was cancelled by editor Matthew Winkler.

According to one of the Bloomberg employees cited in the NYT’s article, Wikler defended his actions by comparing them to “the self-censorship by foreign news bureaus trying to preserve their ability to report inside Nazi-era Germany”. This analogy, whether accurate or not, could not conceivably be made if the report in question could not have damaged Bloomberg’s coverage in China ala Bloomberg’s 2012 report into then-transitioning-President Xi Jinping.

What I mean to say here is that Bloomberg’s fears were grounded, and this report (or a reportedly-canned second article into “the children of senior Chinese officials employed by foreign banks”) could have easily hindered the organisation’s ability to reporting in or about China. Obviously, however, their decision to can the story violates a core tenant of journalism and leaves the company effectively powerless against the Chinese government.

What’s interesting about this incident is the coverage its received from rival blogs. In light of Ryan Holiday’s “Trust Me I’m Lying,” coverage could been seen as classified as extensive and investigative, like the New York Times piece, or, and more commonly, as link-baiting, secondarily-sourced articles.

While Gawker provided expected hyperbolic sarcasm such as, by not publishing the stories, [Bloomberg] could continue to not accurately report on China,” San Fransisco’s SFGate gave us a more interesting and web-centered take on the story

Basically SFGate attributed the story to a Next Media Animation video, which came out a day before the NYT’s article. While Next Media Animation’s video is certainly interesting and provides some information Holiday would generously classify as a “scoop,” it demonstrates neither the sourcing nor accuracy the Times piece presents:

On a semi-related note, I actually interviewed a Chinese ambassador, Sun Guoxiang, about the country’s media policies last month. He basically highlighted the belief that the media should be used to support democratic ties and portray positive, practical stories, an attitude Bloomberg seems to have given in to.

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