Four staffers for news service Bloomberg have alleged to The New York Times that the company has held back a damning investigation into a wealthy Chinese billionaire's ties to the government, fearing the story could lead to Bloomberg's eviction from the country.
The plan to publish the story started to unravel in late October, the employees say, when two Bloomberg senior editors who'd previously raised no objections during the editing process said that the report had no "smoking gun" and revealed nothing new since a previous article published in 2012. Eventually, Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg News' editor-in-chief, insisted on an internal conference call that the publication would be "kicked out of China" if it ran the report, comparing the move to self-censorship by journalists operating from inside Nazi Germany during World War II.
A balancing act for Bloomberg
Bloomberg's fears aren't unfounded: the Times notes that its Chinese-language edition was blocked inside China's borders after an October 2012 report that cast then-Premier Wen Jiabao in a negative light, and the publication hasn't had a single residency visa approved for any of its journalists since then. The Bloomberg staff who spoke with the Times also claim that Bloomberg has a system for preventing certain articles from appearing on its news terminals — expensive machines used by newsrooms and financial markets around the world — that are installed in China.
The company's biggest fear may be tied to those terminals, which generate significant revenue in the country — eviction would make it difficult to report from inside China, of course, but a ban on terminals would mean a big hit to Bloomberg's bottom line.