Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Key Questions for Bloomberg

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Key Questions for Bloomberg

Article excerpt

Byline: Roy Greenslade

BY their nature, journalists are inquisitive. It's their job, after all. But, just like cats, they can be killed for their curiosity, as the News of the World's phone hackers discovered.

Now Bloomberg's journalists are being held to account for crossing the line from ethical investigation into unprincipled snooping. They had been obtaining information by accessing the terminals Bloomberg supplies to its commercial clients.

The supposed Chinese wall between Bloomberg as a financial services company and Bloomberg as a purveyor of journalistic information was breached. Whether this activity, carried out in New York, is adjudged to be criminal is yet to be decided. Meanwhile, it raises questions about media ownership and journalistic practice.

We need to ask whether it is appropriate for a company to operate equity-trading platforms -- through its specialised terminals -- and to supply data services while also being a news provider.

Was it not obvious that its news function would be compromised by its other activities or, as has become clear, that its news operation would impinge on its supposedly discreet financial services? Bloomberg is a data and trading company that masquerades as a news organisation. That is not to denigrate its journalists, who labour to provide supposedly impartial news, but they cannot be viewed in the same terms as those who work for independent news organisations such as the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The Bloomberg editorial team was enabled, however, to obtain information rivals could not access. The fact it did so is not entirely surprising, even if it has appeared to shock clients such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, who have complained about the alleged leakage of sensitive information, and yesterday the Bank of England called it "reprehensible". It would not surprise me in the least to discover that journalists did this simply because they could and because they didn't regard it as much more than a reporting wheeze.

Nor would I be unduly surprised to learn that the journalists were placed under pressure from their bosses to obtain exclusive news items to boost Bloomberg's profile, and profits. …

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