Some reporters believe their movements are monitored to the extent that when they fail to touch their keyboard for fifteen minutes, a dot next to their name in the Bloomberg computer system shifts from green (meaning, basically, “logged in and active”) to yellow (for “idle”). This is technically true but in fact the dot system applies to all Bloomberg users, including customers. Winkler himself didn’t know the actual meaning of the yellow light when I asked him about it. Czelusniak says Bloomberg’s system is designed to allow staffers to get touch with each other quickly and to know, for instance, whether it’s worth messaging someone knowing they may not be at their desk.
An excellent Columbia Journalism Review story, though thirteen years old, describes sweatshop-like newsroom working conditions and included a colorful quote from Barbara Garson, author of the book The Electronic Sweatshop: “Bloomberg,” she said, “is hell.”
Winkler for his part was unapologetic in the piece. “We’re not for everybody, but we’re building something here and we have to work like hell to do it,” we quoted him then.
Our recent conversation was more or less one-way—a stream of facts, figures, names, dates and places—with Czelusniak looking up supporting information on the Bloomberg terminal, which involves typing a command and a key labeled: GO. I occasionally stammer a question.
Winkler’s message is that Bloomberg is as good or better than anyone else, and just as influential. The fact flow is relentless.
He says, for instance, that the Bloomberg terminal has 30,000 functions, and “news” is consistently hit more than all but ten other functions, less than instant messaging, stock quotes and the “cancel” key, for example, but more than the rest:
Thirty thousand functions on the Bloomberg! Thirty thousand functions on the Bloomberg! Now, I’m going to ask you another question. Of these ten, which of these ten is the one that’s invented at Bloomberg, okay. It’s not a commodity. Now, we just walked through this. Message. Everybody’s got it. [Stock] quote everybody’s got it. Equity. Everybody’s got it. The only thing in the top ten most used functions that was invented at Bloomberg is news. And guess what? It gets hit every day And so all these other functions are there for everybody to use, so when someone says, you know, it’s just the machine and it enhances the machine, very true! It sure enhances the machine. It enhances the machine so much that it’s one of the top ten most used functions on the Bloomberg and there are 30,000 of them.
“Let me show you something,” he says to me, then tells Czelusniak: “Type BNAW, GO.” On a screen flashes the Bloomberg page with the awards Bloomberg has won.
We’re not a news organization. Hello? We’ve been winning awards since 1993. The only award we haven’t won is the Pulitzer Prize. We were a finalist, but we haven’t won it. But we’ve won everything else. But we’ve been winning them since 1992. So, our peers in the profession—people like you, they make those decisions, not me. Every year, we show up and say, “here’s what we did,” and every year we win the Polk Award, we win the Loeb Award, We win the National Press Foundation Award. We win British Journalist of the Year Award. Every category The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are in, we’ve won, too.
(Bloomberg won a single Polk, in 2005, for a twelve-part series called “Big Pharma’s Shameful Secrets,”on improper drug-testing practices and regulatory laxity, by David Evans, Michael Smith, and Liz Willen.)
And another thing, he says. What about the people who work here?
And look who’s here. If we’re not a news organization, would you tell me who Al Hunt is? Would you tell me who Rich Jaroslovsky is? Will you tell me who Phil Kuntz is? Those are three people from The Wall Street Journal. Would you tell me who Janet Guyon is? Another person from The Wall Street Journal.
Me: “I didn’t know…”
How about Amanda Bennett?