Edwin Wong and Christine Haughney report for the New York Times, Nov. 17, 2013, that Michael Forsythe, an award-winning reporter for Bloomberg News whose article on the ties of a Chinese tycoon with families of Communist Party leaders was suppressed for political reasons by top editors, was suspended last week by Bloomberg’s managers.
On Nov. 13, Hong Kong-based Forsythe was asked to go to the floor where human resources offices are, and he did not return to the newsroom, employees said. Two Bloomberg employees with knowledge of the situation said Forsythe has been placed on leave.
The move came days after several news outlets, including The New York Times, published reports quoting unnamed Bloomberg employees saying that top editors, led by Matthew Winkler, the editor in chief, decided in late October not to publish Forsythe’s investigative article because of fears that Bloomberg would be expelled from China. Winkler denies that the article was killed.
The Times’s account of the unpublished article appeared online on Nov. 8 and cited Bloomberg employees who said that Winkler had conveyed his decision about the article in a conference call on Oct. 29 to Forsythe and Oster, although their article had already been through a series of late-stage edits in which no big objections were raised, and had been approved by a lawyer. The Financial Times published what it said were excerpts from emails expressing strong support for the story, from top Bloomberg editors in New York — Laurie Hays and Jonathan Kaufman. Managing editor Kaufman wrote: “The story is terrific. I am in awe of the way you tracked down and deciphered the financial holdings and the players. It’s a real revelation. Looking forward to pushing it up the line.”
Bloomberg employees familiar with the conference call said that Winkler had defended his decision by comparing it to the self-censorship by foreign news bureaus trying to preserve their ability to report inside Nazi-era Germany. “He said, ‘If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China,’ ” one employee said.
[In effect, Winkler is comparing today’s China with Nazi Germany. Not my words, but Winkler’s. ~Dr. C]
Bloomberg L.P., the parent company of Bloomberg News, receives much of its revenue from selling subscriptions for its financial-information terminals. After Bloomberg News published an article in June 2012 on the family wealth of Xi Jinping, at that time the incoming Communist Party chief, sales of Bloomberg terminals in China slowed, as officials ordered state enterprises not to subscribe. Officials also blocked Bloomberg’s website on Chinese servers, and the company has been unable to get residency visas for new journalists.
Forsythe was a lead reporter on the article about the Xi family and other articles in the 2012 “Revolution to Riches” series, which received a George Polk Award and awards from the Asia Society, the Overseas Press Club and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
On Nov. 13, the same day when Forsythe was suspended, Amanda Bennett, until recently the executive editor for projects and investigations at Bloomberg, said she was leaving the company. She told Talking Biz News that she was “most proud of the groundbreaking” article on the Xi family. Bloomberg employees said that the investigative unit Ms. Bennett had run would soon undergo major changes.
H/t CODA’s Sol Sanders
A major U.S. news medium such as Bloomberg willingly censors itself in pursuit of profits and to ingratiate itself with a dictatorship. So much for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of the press.
Dr. C is the Editor of Consortium of Defense Analysts.