Bloomberg News review suggests standards editor, ombudsman

Bloomberg | The Wall Street Journal

Former New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt reviewed Bloomberg News’ newsroom operations following revelations last May that the company’s journalists had improperly accessed data about Bloomberg’s data customers.

Among Hoyt’s recommendations: The news service should install a standards editor as a member of “senior newsroom leadership.” That person will, among other duties, “read before publication major news stories and projects for accuracy, fairness, balance and tone.”

Hoyt also recommends Bloomberg News install a “senior independent editor” outside the newsroom command chain. That person will act as an ombudsman, with orders to “review and assess complaints regarding news coverage, recommend corrective action to newsroom leadership when warranted and respond to the complaining party.”

A separate review by the law firm Hogan Lovells and the Promontory Financial Group of the company’s data policies and practices “identified only two occasions where subscriber information or other sensitive data was clearly reflected in stories,” William Launder reports in The Wall Street Journal.

Hoyt’s recommendations report is a compelling read, including one section in which he concludes a literary device “went too far” in a 2011 story headlined “JPMorgan’s Swaps Occupying Cassino Prove Curse Like World War II.”

JPMorgan “objected to the headline” and two paragraphs in the story, Hoyt writes, “saying they unfairly compared the bank to the Nazis. News considered this objection, said its facts were correct (an assertion the bank did not dispute), and stood by its story.” Still:

In one of the great campaigns of World War II, Monte Cassino was completely destroyed in a wave of battles that claimed 75,000 casualties and the lives of hundreds of townspeople. To suggest that a bond deal gone sour, curtailing daycare for 60 children and services for the poor is comparable to the terror and cataclysm of war is inconsistent with BN’s high standards.

Here are Hoyt’s recommendations:

Clark Hoyt’s review of Bloomberg

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  • JHamer

    Ombudsmen, public editors, standards editors, readers’ advocates (or whatever you call them) are great if the individuals in those positions are tough, feisty, courageous and critical. But an even more independent outside accountability mechanism is a news council. Many editors and reporters — wrongly — oppose news councils. They should reconsider. For a good model, see the Washington News Council (http://wanewscouncil.org), now in our 15th year. If anyone has questions or criticisms, I can answer them. Call me at 206.262.9793 in Seattle.