How Bloomberg the candidate impacts Bloomberg the publication » Fear and loving at Amazon » Local journalist calls out national paper

Your Tuesday Poynter Report

February 18, 2020
Category: Newsletters

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Mr. Bloomberg, build up this wall!

If you went to the Bloomberg News website Monday afternoon and clicked on the politics page, you would have seen the following stories prominently on display:

Farther down the page — MUCH farther down the page — there was a story about Mike Bloomberg. He’s running for president, too. He also happens to own Bloomberg News. The headline: “Bloomberg Faces Attacks from Democrats as He Rises in the Polls.”

This remains a sticky situation. How do you cover someone running for president when that someone is your boss? And how do you cover him if he doesn’t want you to?

Since Bloomberg entered the race in November, there has been controversy over how his media outlet will cover him. Specifically, Bloomberg News announced that it would not do any investigative pieces on Bloomberg. And, out of fairness, that courtesy would be extended to the other Democratic presidential hopefuls. However, President Donald Trump remains fair game for Bloomberg News.

This edict put Bloomberg reporters in a tough spot. How can you be considered a reputable news outlet if there are certain stories you aren’t allowed to pursue?

Not that the big boss has any sympathy. Back when he announced his candidacy, Bloomberg told “CBS This Morning”’s Gayle King that “you just have to learn to live with some things. They get a paycheck. But with your paycheck comes some restrictions and responsibilities.”

The whole thing simmered down, mostly because we didn’t know just how seriously to take Bloomberg as a candidate.

That was two months ago. Since then, Bloomberg has emerged as a more credible candidate thanks to an overwhelming advertising blitz and seemingly unlimited resources. Over the weekend, Washington Post political analyst Amber Phillips wrote a piece titled, “Why everyone is suddenly taking Mike Bloomberg seriously.” BuzzFeed News’ Rosie Gray wrote that Bloomberg’s campaign is now too big to ignore.

Bloomberg News does have a reporter assigned to Bloomberg’s campaign. And that reporter, Mark Niquette, has written about Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk controversy, as well the story I alluded to above about attacks on Bloomberg from other candidates.

In addition, according to a story by The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum, Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait told reporters at a town hall in December that management has not prevented any political story from being published. Also, Grynhbaum reports, reporters at Bloomberg News have expressed frustration that the perception of internal censorship is “not reflective of their experience.”

Fairly or unfairly, the perception (or reality) that Bloomberg News will not do a no-holds-barred investigative piece on Mike Bloomberg or any other Democratic candidate hurts Bloomberg News’ reputation. As far as Bloomberg News being able to sway an election, that’s a stretch. It’s not as if Bloomberg News is the only outlet that is covering the political campaign.

But if Bloomberg continues to elbow his way to the top of Democratic hopefuls, Bloomberg News might have no choice but to step up its coverage. Otherwise, its reputation as a news outlet will descend as its boss’ presidential hopes ascend. And who knows what in the world will happen to Bloomberg News if Candidate Bloomberg becomes President Bloomberg.

In his “Reliable Sources” newsletter, CNN’s Brian Stelter quoted colleague Jake Tapper as saying, “The candidate and the campaign should be firewalled from the newsroom, period. And again: The refusal to build this proverbial wall is only serving to hurt the hard-working and excellent journalists at Bloomberg who deserve better than this.”

  

Creating a monster … that we really like


A scene from the PBS “Frontline” special about Jeff Bezos and Amazon. (Photo by Jeremy Gould/FRONTLINE, PBS)

Alexa, what should I watch tonight?

“Everything that is admirable about Amazon is also something that we should fear about it.”

That quote comes from Atlantic staff writer Franklin Foer in a don’t-miss “Frontline” special airing tonight on most PBS stations called “Amazon Empire — The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos.” TV critic Hank Stuever of The Washington Post (which is owned by Bezos) calls the special “well reported” and “rather alarming.”

Stuever wrote, “It’s not chock full of new information, but it smartly and effectively builds toward a disturbing conclusion — that Amazon is in sore need of some corrective regulation from a government that seems, at best, indifferent to intervening and, at worst, submissively technocratic.”

Amazon’s very first employee, programmer Shel Kaphan, told “Frontline” that he is concerned about how Amazon has become a “huge and unstoppable force.”

“I think that the characterization of Amazon as being a ruthless competitor is true,” Kaphan said. “And under the flag of customer obsession, they can do a lot of things, which might not be good for people who aren’t their customers.”

Reported by correspondent and director James Jacoby (and co-produced and co-written by Anya Bourg), the special talks to current and former employees and delves into the notion that Amazon has simply become too big and too powerful.

The other Jeff Bezos news

The dominating Jeff Bezos news today isn’t the “Frontline” story, but Bezos announcing on Monday that he is giving $10 billion — or about 7.7% of his net worth — to fight climate change.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos said in an Instagram post. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”

Twitter exchange of the day

It started innocently enough. The Washington Post tweeted out one of its stories about a 6-year-old girl who went from school to the police to a mental institution — all without her mother’s consent — because of Florida’s Baker Act, which allows for the involuntary institutionalization of a person for examination.

Then Emily Bloch, an education reporter for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, retweeted the Post’s tweet and commented, “Thanks for the re-write, @washingtonpost! Y’all know linkbacks are free, right?”

The point was Bloch is the one who wrote the original story (and follow-ups) about the 6-year-old — it was later followed up by the Post. Bloch has just over 3,700 Twitter followers, but her retweet had 1,500 likes.

Bloch’s retweet and comment led to a respectful back-and-forth on Twitter between Bloch and the Post about national publications giving credit to local newsrooms for stories originally broken by local outlets. Bloch tweeted, “National news becomes national because of the local reporting it spurs off of.”

Hot type


Steve Martin, left, and Martin Short perform together in 2017. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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