So how did it happen? One of the smartest things I’ve read about this scandal is Zach Seward’s Quartz piece on how the cultural, um, eccentricities of Bloomberg dovetail with what we know about the terminal snooping.

At Bloomberg, omniscience is a feature not a bug.
The company’s New York City skyscraper unfurls around its courtyard like a panopticon. Inside, the decor is punctuated at every turn with fish tanks. No one has an office to hide in, and the meeting rooms are enclosed in clear glass…
Within the company, stalking is simply part of the culture. Employees can look up—using the function on their terminals—the last time anyone scanned into or out of a Bloomberg office, which they use to keep legitimate tabs on coworkers and, more voyeuristically, to track their executives on business trips (“Winkler just badged out of Tokyo!”). Some staff make a habit of looking up the last time Michael Bloomberg—the company’s founder, longtime chief executive, and now mayor of New York—visited his family’s foundation, which uses the same security system.

That’s how this scandal happened. And it’s not enough for Bloomberg to disable a couple of functions on reporters’ terminals. Bloomberg News is a big player now, one of the most important news organizations in the world.

This is a perfect time to rethink its culture.


 

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 rc2538@columbia.edu.