NEW YORK – With Michael Bloomberg now running for president, the news service that bears his name said Sunday it will not “investigate” him or any of his Democratic rivals, and Bloomberg Opinion will no longer run unsigned editorials.
Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait announced the new rules in a note to his news organization’s 2,700 journalists and analysts Sunday, shortly after the former New York City mayor announced his candidacy.
“There is no point in trying to claim that covering this presidential campaign will be easy for a newsroom that has built up its reputation for independence in part by not writing about ourselves,” Micklethwait wrote.
Bloomberg started the news service in 1990 to complement the financial information he sold to customers. It has since expanded, with its news available in many formats, including a television and radio network, and Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.
Micklethwait said Bloomberg reporters will cover polls, policies and how the Bloomberg campaign is doing much like it does for all candidates. But it will not do investigative stories on Bloomberg and, to be fair, any Democratic contenders. It will continue to investigate the Trump administration, he said.
By continuing to cover Trump aggressively, it seems like Bloomberg is setting it up to have different rules for different candidates. Micklethwait pointed out the situation is different because Trump is already president and the work of his administration is fair game.
If other credible news organizations do investigative stories on Bloomberg or other Democrats, the news service will summarize them or publish them in full, he said.
“We will not hide them,” he said.
To anyone who believes the news service shouldn’t cover Bloomberg at all, he said Bloomberg News “has handled these conflicts before — and proved our independence.”
The situation presents an ethical tightrope. When Bloomberg was considering a candidacy in 2016, the news service’s politics news director in Washington, Kathy Kiely, quit and said she did not feel she could do her job without covering Bloomberg aggressively.
Kiely said Sunday that the new rules “relegate his political writers to stenography journalism … it’s not satisfying for journalists and it’s not satisfying for readers. I think people will go elsewhere for in-depth political coverage.”
Kiely said Michael Bloomberg should step completely away from his news organization and let it operate independently. Instead, he’s undermining the news organization “he worked so hard and spent so much money to build up.”
The Bloomberg Opinion service will no longer carry unsigned editorials, since they usually reflected Bloomberg’s point of view. It will continue to run opinions by columnists and some columns from outsiders, although none of the latter will be about the campaign.
David Shipley, who has overseen Bloomberg Opinion as its senior executive editor, is leaving to join the campaign, Micklethwait said. Some other members of the editorial board will also take leaves of absence, he said.
Chief Content Officer Marty Schenker has been asked to oversee the campaign coverage.
“This is a structure that can cope with many eventualities,” Micklethwait wrote. “No doubt, many of you are already thinking of possible complexities that may raise. My response is: let’s get back to work. We can spend a long time debating ‘what ifs.’ I would rather that we got on with the journalism and let the work speak for itself.”