How do you report a story when your boss is the story? The dilemma at Bloomberg News

Political News
CANDIDATE BLOOMBERG

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg talks to supporters during a campaign appearance, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 in Fayetteville, N.C. (Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer via AP)

NEW YORK (WLNS) – Michael Bloomberg’s rise in the polls has increased the pressure on political reporters employed by his news outlet.

In December, the editor in chief of Bloomberg News had to explain to his political reporters how to cover a presidential campaign when the boss is a candidate, according to a report by media correspondent Michael Grynbaum of The New York Times.

“We always knew it would be tough,” John Micklethwait, editor in chief of Bloomberg News, told roughly 100 journalists. “But we are actually showing what we are: an independent news organization.”

A challenge that includes rival candidates attacking the journalists’ coverage as biased as well as some sources had stopped returning calls.

Two months later, Bloomberg is polling high in the Democratic race and increasing discussions about what a President Bloomberg could mean for a news organization that is already dealing with the conflict of interest perception.

Mr. Bloomberg’s does have a presence for the 2,700 journalists at his financial data company.

New employees receive a copy of his autobiography, “Bloomberg by Bloomberg,” and company guidelines prohibit coverage of his “wealth or personal life.” In 2018, Mr. Bloomberg told an interviewer: “I don’t want the reporters I’m paying to write a bad story about me.”

A policy that created tension during Mr. Bloomberg’s three terms as mayor of New York City.

When Mr. Bloomberg declared his candidacy in November, Mr. Micklethwait sent a memo to the staff that the news outlet “will write about virtually all aspects of this presidential contest in much the same way as we have done so far.” But he said Mr. Bloomberg would remain off-limits from investigations, “and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries.”

Team Trump took offense to this stance because Mr. Micklethwait said in the memo that his staff would keep investigating the White House “as the government of the day,” the Trump campaign called Bloomberg News biased and barred it from covering its events.

The memo was widely perceived as a signal that Bloomberg News would cease accountability coverage of the Democratic field, even as Bloomberg executives called that a misunderstanding.

In December, the outlet published an article noting that Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had criticized Amazon while paying the company for services. The candidates seized on the story to accuse Bloomberg News of bias.

Senator Warren accused Mr. Bloomberg of betraying the First Amendment. “He should let reporters do their jobs and report on him, and everyone else, as they see fit,” Warren wrote on Twitter last month, adding: “This ban puts reporters in an impossible situation and undermines a free press.”

A spokeswoman for Bloomberg News said in a statement: “Over the past 30 years, editorial independence has been at the core of Bloomberg News. We are proud of the more than 760 articles Bloomberg News has published on the election and the candidates, not to mention a host of broadcast interviews, since Mike Bloomberg announced he was running for president.”

Mr. Micklethwait has had no contact with Mr. Bloomberg or his campaign since he declared his bid, according to a spokeswoman for Bloomberg News.

As for Mr. Bloomberg himself, he was asked by CBS News in December about his staff’s concerns about not being allowed to investigate his rivals in the presidential race.

“You just have to learn to live with some things,” Mr. Bloomberg told the anchor Gayle King. “They get a paycheck. But with your paycheck comes some restrictions and responsibilities.”

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