I am deep inside Bloomberg LP’s global headquarters, the Lexington Avenue office of the financial-information giant.
With its post-modernist design—sweeping interior vistas, bristling clusters of computers, oversized screens blinking up-to-the-minute sales figures, streaming stock tickers, TV studios, financial radio chatter in various languages, swoopy futuristic red couches, puzzling art—it conveys a sense of energy, power, certainly, but mostly, for me, of self-containment. The free bananas, breakfast cereals, energy bars and coffee available near the elevators on Level Six do nothing to detract from the sensation that this is a place where all biological needs are provided for. You can leave, but you don’t have to and it’s not encouraged.
I am in a glass-walled conference room with Matthew Winkler, the powerful chief of Bloomberg News, and Judith Czelusniak, Bloomberg’s PR chief, who is gamely working a Bloomberg terminal to help Winkler explain what much of the world does not understand about what he calls the “Bloomberg Way.”
The topic turns to a delicate subject, and I tread carefully as Winkler is known to have a temper: Is it true that Winkler, a famously iron-fisted manager, has banned the use of the word “but,” from Bloomberg copy, as well as “despite,” “however,” along with adverbs and modifiers generally? I add, “There’s sort of a top-down feel to it You know, um, these are pros, and, I ”
“To answer that question,” Winkler breaks in. He begins to unwind an answer that grows more emphatic and intense, even angry, the longer it continues:
David Pauly, who spent [eighteen] years at Newsweek and was Maynard Parker’s go-to guy when Maynard Parker said, scramble the jets we’re ripping up the magazine—here we go at Newsweek—okay?—he turned to David Pauly who joined Bloomberg in 1991 and said, “Would ya please rewrite this?” and David Pauly has been with us every since, okay? He certainly knows how to write. He’s had a “but” or two and a “despite” or two and all sorts of other things in his columns, but he knows what I’m talking about, okay? And he’s never obviously had a problem with it, okay? And if you ask anybody in the profession of journalism about David Pauly, people at Newsweek, they’ll tell you this is a writer’s writer. This is a guy who knows how to write better than anybody. He’s been at Bloomberg since 1991. Okay? So all I’m saying is for people who understand what we’re trying to do here—and again my son who you just met who walked out the door when you showed up and who’s a student at Columbia University—okay?—and got eight fives on eight APs—okay?—he took the Bloomberg Way in high school, and if you ask him he’ll tell you the Bloomberg Way was the single best thing that he used to teach him how to write, and when he got to Columbia University, he said he could write an essay a lot better than other people, and “I gotta tell you, dad, it’s because of what the Bloomberg Way did for me,” and his older brother went to Swarthmore, who is even more distinguished as an academic, did the same thing, so I did try this out on a bunch of kids, okay? And they didn’t find it confining, and they didn’t find it you know restricting. They actually found it liberating, and it enabled them to compete with high school students who went to elite schools—because they went to public schools—and they did just fine, and they learned how to write, and they grew up with the Bloomberg Way.
Me: “There you go.”
(Pauly, a Bloomberg columnist, says he was actually a writer, not an editor, at Newsweek and that Winkler misstates his relationship with Parker. “I was not anywhere near his right-hand man,” he says. But he says Winkler is right about the main point: “I can get along with the Bloomberg Way.”)
Few publications reflect their editors more than Bloomberg’s wire does Winkler. He started it in 1990, recruited by Mike Bloomberg himself to supplement with text—news—the gusher of financial data and analytics in his remarkable two-screen terminal. Winkler reads an astounding number of Bloomberg stories and all stories over 850 words. He writes editorial notes for the staff down to the tiniest detail. He co-wrote the Bloomberg News stylebook and journalistic manifesto, The Bloomberg Way. His comings and goings, musings and edicts are carefully followed by an anxious Bloomberg staff.