Audit Notes: The Bloomberg Way, Conflicts in Congress, Apple and Wikileakspedia

One of the knocks on Bloomberg News is that the place is a bit, well, cultish.

This quote doesn’t help matters.

We noticed the other day top dog Matt Winkler getting a little weird channeling Mayor Mike’s views for the new Bloomberg View editorials.

Jeff Bercovici of Forbes talked to Winkler recently about Bloomberg View and got this stuff (emphasis mine):

To the extent that Bloomberg View has — let’s say “preferences” rather than “biases,” shall we? — they will be those of the company’s founder, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. In January of this year, Winkler, mindful that the company was soon to embark on a major expansion of its opinion operation, attempted to codify some of those preferences in the latest edition of “The Bloomberg Way,” the best-practices guidebook issued to every employee. “As moral force makes journalism a calling for those who embrace it,” reads the new edition, “the Bloomberg Way necessitates a respect for life, peace and harmony, education, family stability, social responsibility, transparency, free trade and free markets.”

“It seemed to me, in the course of working on it, that all of us ought to be able to answer the question ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘Why am I here now?’ Winkler says of his decision to add the passage about values. “Those are all things I would consider consistent with the values of our founder.”

Is this a news organization or a religion?

— Reuters looks at how supposedly independent experts called to testify before Congress often don’t reveal their conflicts of interest.

A Reuters review of 96 testimonies given by 82 academics to the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee between late 2008 and early 2010 — as lawmakers debated the biggest overhaul of financial regulation since the 1930s — found no clear standard for disclosure.

In fact, roughly a third did not reveal their financial affiliations in their testimonies, based on a comparison of the text of their testimonies available on the Congressional committees’ websites with their resumes available online.

The House Financial Services Committee’s rules require disclosure only if witnesses have received federal grants on the subject about which they are testifying.

Also interesting: How often academics from the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason get called to testify to Congress.

The House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee heard from academic economists linked to the Mercatus Center about a dozen times during the financial regulatory reform debate. That is roughly the same number of testimonies by academics hailing from both Harvard’s business and law schools.

According to a 2009 ranking of 31 economics programs at U.S. universities
by U.S. News and World Report, Harvard University ranked No. 1. George Mason didn’t place.

— Finally, a few months ago, I called for the press to push back hard against Apple, which was yanking political cartoonists’ apps for containing “content that ridicules public figures.” Apple backed down, but the episode, and plenty of others since, illustrated how much control Apple has chosen to exert over publishers in its App Stores.

Here’s what I wrote in April:

Look, let’s face it. The iPad is the most exciting opportunity for the media in many years. But if the press is ceding gatekeeper status, even if it’s only nominally, over its speech, then it is making a dangerous mistake. Unless Apple explicitly gives the press complete control over its ability to publish what it sees fit, the news media needs to yank its apps in protest.

Now, Apple has yanked a third-party Wikileaks app from its store, saying “Apps must comply with all local laws and may not put an individual or group in harm’s way.”

But whatever you think about whether Wikileaks is a responsible member of the press, it is most definitely the press, and Apple has just blocked it from publishing on its devices.

I’ll reiterate what I said earlier this year:

The press has got to step back and think about the broad implications of this. It would never let the government have such power over its right to publish. It shouldn’t let any corporation have it, either.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , ,