In a New York Times report from earlier this week, it was revealed that the editor in chief of Bloomberg News, Matthew Winkler, killed a story for the simple fact that it would anger the Chinese government.
The decision came in an early evening call to four journalists huddled in a Hong Kong conference room. On the line 12 time zones away in New York was their boss, Matthew Winkler, the longtime editor in chief of Bloomberg News. And they were frustrated by what he was telling them.
The investigative report they had been working on for the better part of a year, which detailed the hidden financial ties between one of the wealthiest men in China and the families of top Chinese leaders, would not be published.
Defending his decision, Winkler compared the situation to that of reporters inside Nazi Germany — claiming that if they went ahead and published the story, they would be kicked out of China. According to Winkler’s rationale, forgoing the story would allow Bloomberg’s reporters to remain in China and continue to deliver accurate reporting on the government.
But according to four China-based Bloomberg reporters speaking anonymously to the New York Times, “Mr. Winkler made clear in his call that his concerns were primarily about continuing to have reporters work in China, not protecting company revenues. Even so, they said, he gave the listeners a clear impression that the company was in retreat on aspects of its coverage of the world’s second-largest economy, a little more than a year after it locked horns with a confident Chinese leadership that has shown itself willing to punish foreign news organizations that cross it.”
Max Rivlin-Nadler of Gawker writes:
Next month, Daniel L. Doctoroff, the chief executive of Bloomberg, is visiting China to promote its financial services division. A critical story published now would harm both his visit, and the business it serves to promote.
The article was on course for publication, right through final edits, before it was killed by senior editors based in New York. “They were adamant that the reasons for killing the story were editorial reasons, not political reasons,” an employee told the New York Times.
Days later, another story was killed by editors at Bloomberg News, once again covering China’s ruling class. This time, the editors claimed a veteran journalist didn’t have enough documentary evidence.
The New York Times, by the way, has not been given new journalism visas for China in some time, starting around when it began publishing articles that exposed the wealth and connections of China’s elite.
Read the full New York Times report here.