December 3, 2019

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How Bloomberg News got it wrong

Now THIS is quid pro quo.

If Bloomberg News isn’t going to investigate its owner, Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg, or any of Bloomberg’s rivals for president, then it won’t have access to President Donald Trump, either.

The Trump campaign announced Monday that it will no longer credential Bloomberg reporters for campaign events. Campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement:

“Bloomberg News has declared that they won’t investigate their boss or his Democratic competitors, many of whom are current holders of high office, but will continue critical reporting on President Trump. Since they have declared their bias openly, the Trump campaign will no longer credential representatives of Bloomberg News for rallies or other campaign events.”

Parscale said the policy will remain in place until “Bloomberg News publicly rescinds its decision.”

In a memo to staff last week, Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said the outlet would publish investigative work about Bloomberg or other candidates from other credible news organizations. “We will not hide them,” he said.

Still …

It does appear as if Bloomberg News has mismanaged this from the beginning. It seems outrageous that an entity that calls itself a legitimate news organization would refuse to report or investigate on anything, including its own boss. After all, you don’t see The Washington Post holding back on covering owner Jeff Bezos. Bloomberg’s policy is made worse by claiming it’s only fair to not investigate the other Democratic presidential hopefuls.

But it will continue to cover Trump, using the excuse that Trump is an elected official. Like the Trump campaign notes, however, most of the Democratic presidential field is made up of elected officials, including senators, House representatives and a big-city mayor.

It also should be noted that the decision comes from the very top. As Axios’ Jonathan Swan tweeted Monday:

“Bloomberg News is full of talented, meticulous and fair-minded reporters who abhor the decision their bosses made. Mike Bloomberg made clear he wouldn’t tolerate critical coverage from his own outlet, so the only choice was quit or execute his wishes.”

Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN featured an interview with Kathy Kiely, who quit as Bloomberg Washington news director in 2016 over the outlet’s policy of covering (or in this case, not covering) Bloomberg.

She told CNN, “We don’t need another billionaire who thinks there should be a special set of rules just for him. If Mike Bloomberg really wants to distinguish himself from the man he says he wants to beat, he should say: ‘Free the press. I can take it, Donald, even if you can’t.’”

None of us should condone any politician, especially the president of the United States, denying press access. New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet told Politico’s Michael Calderone, “Bloomberg News is one of the largest and most influential news organizations in the world. We condemn any action that keeps quality news media from reporting fairly and accurately on the presidency and the leadership of the country.”

That drew a reaction from Trump, who tweeted:

“Mini Mike Bloomberg has instructed his third rate news organization not to investigate him or any Democrat, but to go after President Trump, only. The Failing New York Times thinks that is O.K., because their hatred & bias is so great they can’t even see straight. It’s not O.K.!”

Bloomberg News can fix this now and fix it the right way.

Instead of getting into a ridiculous game of covering some and not covering others, why not do what every self-respecting news outlet would do: cover everyone without bias, discretion or favor?

Unprecedented: NYTimes will film and air its endorsement process

 (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

When newspapers endorse political candidates, they often meet ahead of time with those candidates. Typically, those meetings are held behind closed doors and details of those conversations are kept private. Often, only a small portion of those meetings are considered on the record. Sometimes, the entire conversation is off the record, or used only on background.

Politico’s Michael Calderone reports that The New York Times is breaking from tradition. Not only will interviews with Democratic presidential hopefuls be mostly on the record, they will be filmed for possible inclusion in the paper’s TV show “The Weekly.”

In a memo written by deputy editorial page editor Kathleen Kingsbury to candidates and obtained by Calderone, the Times not only made the pitch, but Kingsbury added, “The show will also feature the editorial board’s deliberations, and the final decision on whom the board chooses to endorse will be revealed on television.”

Talk about must-see TV.

This could be remarkable transparency and, if the Times editorial board really has open and honest discussions, audiences will get what might be the very first behind-the-scenes look at how a newspaper endorses a candidate.

Calderone reports that Kingsbury told staff in a memo that her goal was to make the endorsement process “our most important to date.” Calderone writes that the Times’ Democratic endorsement will air on the Jan. 19 episode of “The Weekly,” and appear in print the next day.

Give the Times credit: Newspapers often take heat for their endorsements, but now the Times is opening itself up to even more criticism. Meanwhile, the candidates will have to adjust from what used to be a more casual, free-flowing conversation to a more structured exchange that could go viral if the wrong thing is said.

Just a few questions: Will candidates be completely open or somewhat guarded during meetings that are filmed? Will there be parts of the meeting that won’t be filmed and revert back to the traditional off-the-record interviews? During the meetings to actually choose a candidate to endorse, will audiences see negative comments about particular candidates?

And the biggest question of all: Will the Times do the same thing for the general election next year?

Journalist’s death leads to unrest in Malta

People hold pictures of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia as they protest outside the office of the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, calling for his resignation, in Valletta, Malta, last week. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud)

Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will resign next month as an investigation into the death of a journalist continues. Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb in October of 2017. She had been reporting on alleged corruption within the government. Those close to her have accused Muscat of trying to shield members of the government from the ongoing investigation.

Muscat said he has “deep regret” for Caruana Galizia’s murder and said the country needs a “fresh page.” However, he also said, “This case cannot define everything that our country is.”

Alden agrees to pause; Gannett CEO speaks

From Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds: “Alden Global Capital has agreed to at least a seven-month pause in its accumulation of Tribune Publishing stock. The hedge fund, which owns about a third of Tribune shares, had two representatives added Monday to Tribune’s board. In turn, it agreed to a ‘standstill’ agreement, forestalling for now any takeover attempt. Alden owns Media News Group and earlier this year bid to buy Gannett (which instead merged with the GateHouse chain).”

Also, be sure to check out Rick Edmond’s story on about GateHouse CEO Mike Reed’s meeting last week with the staff of The Tennessean. What did Reed say about layoffs in the meeting?

Edmonds writes, “Reed said that he did not know yet exactly how many there will ultimately be. But he expects an initial round to get ‘90% done … by the first half of February.’ Company-wide, Reed has set a savings target of 8%, he continued, and ‘about 50% of our cost structure is people.’

“So roughly 4% of new Gannett’s 24,000 employees — about 960 — will probably be let go. Reed did not say whether newsrooms will have the same level of reductions as other departments or whether the first layoffs (as I have been told) could be coming this week.”

‘We all turned into drug addicts’

Here’s a story that tells the horrors of this country’s battle against opioids about as well as any story ever has. With inventive visuals and graphics and insightful reporting, The New York Times and writer Dan Levin look at the Minford (Ohio) High School Class of 2000. Twenty years later, practically everyone has either been directly or indirectly impacted by opioids.

A cheerleader back then said, “OxyContin just started showing up.” A member of the golf team said, “All of my close friends, we all turned into drug addicts.”

Read this story. Read it today.


More on Report for America placements

As I mentioned Monday, Report for America announced that it will place 250 emerging journalists in 164 news organizations to serve local communities across 46 states next year. Some more numbers: The list includes 69 daily newspapers, 39 digital-only sites, 39 public radio stations, 12 local TV stations and five non-daily papers.

Here’s the full list of news organizations and what beats the journalists will be covering.

Hot type

Finally today, a clarification. On Monday, I wrote that the “CBS Evening News” is now the only network news program to broadcast from Washington, D.C. (The broadcast moved there on Monday.) CBS is the lone big three network to have its evening news based in Washington, but it should be noted that the “PBS NewsHour” comes from Arlington, Virginia — just outside of Washington, D.C.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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