Bloomberg’s Degradation of Journalism – The American Prospect
Often Donald Trump is associated with Silvio Berlusconi, the megalomaniac billionaire who went into Italian politics and spent several stints as prime minister. But the closer antecedent to Berlusconi might be Michael Bloomberg, currently spending tens of millions of dollars in his first week as a presidential candidate. That’s because both Bloomberg and Berlusconi are media moguls.
In Bloomberg’s case, his media empire includes one of the world’s largest news organizations, with 2,700 journalists. And Bloomberg News laid out its guidelines for how it will cover the primary race with its owner in the field. The short answer is that it won’t, which should trouble everyone.
“We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries,” wrote editor-in-chief John Micklethwait in a note to staff. Bloomberg News will have a beat reporter on the Bloomberg campaign, and will disclose their ownership in campaign coverage where necessary. But there will be no investigations of any Democratic candidates, and no outside op-eds on the election. The editorial board of Bloomberg Opinion, whose editorials “reflected [Bloomberg’s] views,” will be suspended.
That effectively takes an enormous journalism operation, at a time when there aren’t all that many around, off the playing field. You could see it as a giant in-kind donation to the entire Democratic Party (investigations of Trump aren’t going to stop), but really for Bloomberg himself. He is deliberately avoiding questions on the debate stage, and running mostly a campaign of unrebutted non-stop television ads (and digital ads managed by a Facebook executive). Now at least one large news organization won’t be reporting critically on him either. That helps Bloomberg, who isn’t subjecting himself to scrutiny elsewhere, much more than the other candidates.
This also damages accountability journalism itself, all because of ownership conflicts. What if by some circumstance Bloomberg becomes president? Would Bloomberg News investigations continue to cease? Alex Shephard is correct: Bloomberg could remedy this by divesting himself of Bloomberg News. His vanity is causing a crisis in journalism and a serious liability within the presidential campaign, reinforcing that the “fake news” has its thumb on the scale for Democrats. This is a self-inflicted, needless wound based on nothing more than billionaire arrogance.
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