Biden to China: Lay off U.S. reporters

The New York Times | The Washington Post | Fortune

Vice President Biden said the United States has “profound disagreements” with China about how it treats U.S. journalists, Mark Landler reports. The vice president was speaking Thursday to business people during his trip to Asia.

Biden expressed that view “at all three of his meetings with China’s top leaders, including President Xi Jinping,” David Nakamura reports. Biden also met with journalists Thursday. China “has held up renewing the visas of roughly two dozen correspondents from The Times and Bloomberg after each published investigative articles about the wealth of the families of top Chinese leaders,” Landler writes. “Without new visas, the reporters will be forced to leave China, as soon as within the next few weeks.”

Nakamura (who was involved in a tussle with Japanese journalists earlier) writes: “Some of the affected journalists expressed hope that with Biden personally lending his weight and potential loss of face to their cause, the chances that their visas would be granted at the last minute would increase.”

Bloomberg News recently declined to publish a different article about wealthy people in China; a spokesperson for Bloomberg “declined to comment on the status of its reporters or on Mr. Biden’s intervention on their behalf,” Landler writes.

The China episode is a small part of Peter Elkind’s massive new story on Bloomberg in Fortune.

The company’s China decision “cemented the impression that the terminal remained king and that journalism would be sacrificed if it threatened the business,” Elkind writes.

The piece, much of which is behind a paywall, also has some interesting reporting on the reviews Bloomberg commissioned after revelations earlier this year that its journalists had snooped on terminal clients. One review was conducted by former New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt. “At the Times, no one but a copyeditor saw his critiques before they appeared in print,” Elkind writes. “In contrast, his Bloomberg report was delivered first to management for consideration of what to make public.”

While Hoyt’s criticisms of Bloomberg were nonetheless “remarkable” for the company, Bloomberg’s review of the review hampered its transparency.

But the tone of what Bloomberg released publicly — which it refers to as a summary — differed conspicuously from Hoyt’s detailed, warts-and-all appraisals at the Times. The culpable were not identified, and key details were lacking. An organization that excoriates reporters for grammatical errors would not identify those responsible for policies that allowed employees to spy on customers.

Whatever their merits, the two reports paid off for Bloomberg. Customers seemed appeased; the storm had passed. For his part, [Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief Matthew] Winkler appeared unscathed. In a May 12 column on Bloomberg’s website headlined HOLDING OURSELVES ACCOUNTABLE, he apologized for the “error,” but minimized its significance and said nothing about his own knowledge or accountability. In an interview with Fortune, Winkler repeatedly dodged the question of his own role, saying, “The permissioning of it didn’t come from Bloomberg News,” and “the access to the function was not determined by anybody in News, ever.” At the end of the interview Winkler finally stated it flat out: He had known about it for years.

Here’s Winkler’s piece from May 2013.

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  • abeaujon

    Really good point! Thanks.

  • 2muchcoffeeman

    Don’t say ‘lay off’ and ‘reporters’ in the same sentence.