Peter T. Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg L.P., said during a speech in Hong Kong on Thursday that the company “should have rethought” publishing previous reports that strayed from its core coverage of business news, presumably referring in part to the June 2012 investigative piece on the family wealth of Xi Jinping, which is believed to have led to the website being blocked in China later that year, and the comments suggest that we can probably expect less of such reports in the future.
The comments acknowledged the company’s eagerness to keep its foot in the China market considering the vastness of the Chinese economy, second in size only to the US. “We have to be there,” Grauer said.
“We have about 50 journalists in the market, primarily writing stories about the local business and economic environment,” he said in the speech.
“You’re all aware that every once in a while we wander a little bit away from that and write stories that we probably may have kind of rethought — should have rethought.”
The New York Times points out that the comments on Bloomberg’s journalistic priorities in China reflect questioning from a business point of view on whether investigative journalism is worth the potential problems and loss of sales.
The Times reports that sales of Bloomberg terminals in China decreased greatly following its 2012 piece detailing the connections and wealth of the family of Xi Jinping, who was, at that time, the incoming Communist Party chief.
Grauer did not specifically mention the article, nor any others, but it’s generally speculated that the report is what pushed Chinese officials to block Bloomberg’s website on Chinese servers.
The New York Times’ websites, including the Chinese-language edition, were likewise blocked in China when it published a Pulitzer-prize winning article in October 2012 exposing the secret wealth accumulated by the family of Wen Jiabao (who has since denied a role in such allegations). The Times reported in December that the blocking had at that point resulted in revenue losses of 3 million USD.
It’s widely believed that the investigative pieces are what led to reporters from the Times and Bloomberg to face expulsion from China in a months-long standoff between foreign journalists and the Chinese government for renewed visas. According to The Times, both companies have still been unable to get residency visas for new journalists.
Grauer’s comments are now stirring up questions surrounding the M.I.A. Bloomberg investigative report revealing financial ties between Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man, and the CCP.
The unpublished piece was believed to have been killed by Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief Matt Winkler out of fear that the story could get the news agency kicked out of the country, although Winkler denies this.
Michael Forsythe, a co-writer of the article, was eventually dismissed amid controversy surrounding the article and joined The New York Times not long after.
Bloomberg has since been criticized for compromising its journalistic integrity with self-censorship and bowing down to Chinese censors in order to stay in the country.
Grauer did not give figures for the size of Bloomberg’s business in China on Thursday, but The Times says a former executive in November estimated that the company had about 2,000 to 2,500 terminals in the mainland out of 300,000 terminals worldwide. Grauer did say the company was investigating in emerging markets including China and other countries, which account for about 12 percent of people who use Bloomberg terminals and 20 percent of its sales in the year to date.
“Our approach is pretty much to tune out all the news about weaknesses in the emerging markets,” Grauer said. “We’re investing full speed ahead.”