The New York Times reported last week, based on anonymous sources, that Bloomberg News is killing stories about China that might limit the organization’s access to the country. However, Bloomberg News — as well as its founder and owner, outgoing mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg — denied that it is self-censoring.
And one of those anonymous sources was reportedly fired. The New York Post’s media reporter Keith Kelly reported Nov. 15 that staffer Michael Forsthye was identified as one of the sources and has since been put “on unpaid leave,” Gawker noted.
The Post’s Kelly reported:
“Michael Forsthye was escorted from Bloomberg’s Hong Kong office on Nov. 14, sources said, after he was fingered as the person who leaked embarrassing claims about how the news and data giant spiked a story that could have angered leaders in China.”
iMediaEthics asked Bloomberg News for confirmation of or comment on the New York Post’s report. Bloomberg News declined to comment.
The New York Times’ Nov. 8 report, “Bloomberg News Is Said to Curb Articles That Might Anger China,” claimed that Bloomberg News decided not to publish at least two reports about China because they might prevent future access.
Specifically, in one case, anonymous Bloomberg News employees said Bloomberg News editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler killed an investigation on “the hidden financial ties between one of the wealthiest men in China and the families of top Chinese leaders.” The anonymous employees told the New York Times that Winkler said “If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China.”
The Times identified its anonymous sources as “several Bloomberg employees in Hong Kong.”
The same unnamed employees went on to say that Bloomberg News senior staff members Laurie Hays and Jonathan Kaufman said “the reasons for killing the story were editorial reasons, not political reasons.” According to the employees, they were told the story didn’t contain enough major news.
In response to the New York Times’ reporting, Winkler and Bloomberg senior editor Hays both claimed that the stories were not killed but are still ongoing. Winkler said “The stories are active and not spiked.”
A Bloomberg News spokesperson told iMediaEthics by e-mail:
“As we were very clear with the Times, it is absolutely false that we postponed these stories due to external pressure. We are disappointed that they chose to publish a piece that claims otherwise.”
Bloomberg News’ Winkler e-mailed staff after the Times‘ article saying “there has been no change in policy on how and when we publish our stories,” USA Today reported. He added that “there have been several misleading reports over the last few days by rival news organizations about our reporting in China.” Talking Biz News published the full text of the e-mail in question.
Finally, Bloomberg owner Michael Bloomberg also said the New York Times article was wrong.
In a Nov. 12 news conference, Bloomberg, who is wrapping up his last months as mayor of New York City, said the news organization didn’t quash the articles. “The editors said that was just not the case,” Bloomberg said. Bloomberg noted that he doesn’t work with Bloomberg News because of his position as mayor but that once he’s out of office Jan. 1, he can.
Bloomberg added: “No one thinks that we are wusses and not willing to stand up and write stories that are of interest to the public and that are factually correct.”
The New York Times also noted that last year Bloomberg News saw direct negative impact following its 2012 reports “on the personal wealth of Chinese leaders.” The China government backlash included:
- “Bloomberg News website blocked”
- No “residency visa” for a Bloomberg journalist
The New York Times said that its website is also blocked because of its reporting on China.