Get ready to cover the boss’ presidential campaign, with some caveats.
That is the message roughly 2,700 journalists at Bloomberg LP, the financial data company owned in large part by Michael Bloomberg, received Sunday morning after Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, formally announced his candidacy for president as a Democrat.
“We will write about virtually all aspects of this presidential contest in much the same way as we have done so far,” John Micklethwait, Bloomberg Editorial and Research’s editor-in-chief, said in the memo, in which he always referred to Bloomberg simply as “Mike.”
“We will describe who is winning and who is losing,” Micklethwait added. “We will look at policies and their consequences. We will carry polls, we will interview candidates and we will track their campaigns, including Mike’s. We have already assigned a reporter to follow his campaign (just as we did when Mike was in City Hall). And in the stories we write on the presidential contest, we will make clear that our owner is now a candidate.”
But, the memo said, Bloomberg’s outlets, which also include Bloomberg Businessweek and several industry-specific sites, will not do in-depth investigations of Bloomberg — or any of his Democratic rivals.
On Sunday morning, the main Bloomberg website featured an article by Mark Niquette about Bloomberg’s entry into the “crowded 2020 Democratic field.”
This unusual policy of avoiding in-depth investigations of the Democratic field echoes the similarly unusual way that the outlet covered Bloomberg’s 12-year tenure in City Hall as well as its practices regarding rivals of Bloomberg LP. As an internal guide instructs: “Bloomberg News doesn’t originate stories about the company” or cover Bloomberg’s “wealth or personal life.” (But, the memo added, Bloomberg would not change its coverage of President Donald Trump so long as he is not a direct rival of Bloomberg.)
Micklethwait also said that several journalists in the opinion section would take leaves of absences to join Bloomberg’s campaign. They include Timothy L. O’Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion, and David Shipley, senior executive editor. Shipley was previously an editor at The New York Times opinion section, and O’Brien, also a former Times editor and reporter, is known for his 2005 biography of Trump. The section’s unsigned editorials will go on hiatus, the memo said, and a note on the Bloomberg Opinion website said it would not accept outside op-ed articles about the campaign.
MSNBC also confirmed that O’Brien would no longer be a network contributor while he is working on the Bloomberg campaign.
The moment is fraught for one of the most prominent global newsrooms in the country, which now has to document the candidacy of its owner, one of the richest men in the world — one who has mused about selling his holdings if he ran for president. Bloomberg said last year: “I don’t want the reporters I’m paying to write a bad story about me. I don’t want them to be independent.”
Micklethwait acknowledged the uneasy relationship in his memo. “There is no point in trying to claim that covering this presidential campaign will be easy,” he said, “for a newsroom that has built up its reputation for independence in part by not writing about ourselves (and very rarely about our direct competitors).”
Marc Tracy c.2019 The New York Times Company