When Michael Bloomberg entered the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, it created an ethical conundrum for the journalists at his company, Bloomberg LP.
Ultimately, the editorial staff at Bloomberg News decided that the publication would continue to investigate President Donald Trump but would not investigate Bloomberg or any of his 2020 Democratic rivals, a decision that some experts say is ethically questionable.
“We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation ) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries,” Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait said in the memo.
Bloomberg News will continue reporting on the race and has assigned a reporter to cover its owner’s campaign.
Since the company’s founding, journalists at Bloomberg News have grappled with the ethical implications of working for someone with such a large public profile.
During Bloomberg’s tenure as Mayor of New York City, Bloomberg City Hall Reporter Henry Goldman faced a similar ethical dilemma in his coverage of New York City politics. Bloomberg News also has an editorial policy of not covering itself, its owner’s wealth, or his personal life.
With Bloomberg now running for the highest office in the land, it puts the journalists who work for him in an even more difficult position.
On one hand, if Bloomberg Journalists only cover the 2020 campaign at a surface level due to Bloomberg’s run, it challenges their ability to do their jobs as investigative journalists. But if they do cover candidates in earnest, they risk the perception that their coverage is biased in favor of Bloomberg.
Bloomberg News is already facing backlash from President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, which barred Bloomberg journalists from receiving press credentials for Trump campaign events until the company changes its’ policy.
“Since they have declared their bias openly, the Trump campaign will no longer credential representatives of Bloomberg News for rallies or other campaign events,” Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
Shortly after the Trump Campaign’s announcement GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced the GOP would also refuse credentials to Bloomberg reporters going forward.
Media outlets should be independent and fair, and this decision proves that Bloomberg News is neither.
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) December 2, 2019
Philip Seib, a professor of journalism at the University of Southern California, told The Globe Post that by entering the race, Bloomberg created an “ethical minefield” for his news organization.
“It’s just not a tenable position that either Bloomberg or Bloomberg News find themselves in,” Seib said, adding he “might jump out a window” were he the editor in chief of Bloomberg News.
“Michael Bloomberg brought this on himself and his organization.”
In general, the public’s trust in news media in the United States is already in decline. According to a September Gallup survey, only 41 percent of Americans say they have trust in the media with 13 percent who have great trust and 28 percent who have a fair amount of trust.
Mike Foley, a master lecturer in journalism at the University of Florida, told The Globe Post Bloomberg News’ editorial decision could damage the credibility of not just Bloomberg news, but media in general which he said has a “terrible image problem” as it is.
“If you’re going to call yourself a journalist, you have to practice journalism,” Foley said. “If you’re saying hands off the Democratic candidates, that’s not journalism, it’s PR.”