Bloomberg’s Government

Posted Oct. 24, 2010, at 8:14 p.m.

Bloomberg News, until now mostly a provider of financial data, is plunging into the field of general Washington news, in direct competition with National Journal, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call. It calls its new service Bloomberg Government. Ultimately, Bloomberg’s general news service about Washington is challenging The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, a welcome competition.

Bloomberg Government is coming on strong. Its managing editor, Mike Riley, told The Times: “Our aspiration is to be the most influential news organization in the world.” This assertion sounds like a direct confrontation with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., with its Wall Street Journal, Fox News and other news outlets.

Mr. Murdoch clearly shares that ambition. He bought The Journal and is transforming it into a conservative general circulation newspaper with popular features and expanded coverage of political and international affairs.

The Times, in a detailed report on the new Bloomberg venture, said that it saw a Washington opening when other news organizations began dealing largely with politics rather than the details of legislation and executive actions. It said Bloomberg now has 175 journalists in Washington plus the 40 journalists and analysts that Bloomberg Government already has hired. It expects to have a staff of 150 by the end of next year.

While much of how Washington works is available here and there, Bloomberg Government plans to provide minute-by-minute one-stop coverage. Subscribers will be able to get its service on their personal computers, unlike Bloomberg’s special terminals that carry its financial data.

A hint of how Bloomberg Government will offer its Washington news and analysis can be found in “The Bloomberg Way,” a 361-page stylebook and reporting manual now in its 11th edition. It sets a high standard of fast, fair and accurate reporting. In matters of style, the book discourages the use of adjectives and adverbs, arguing that nouns and verbs are more precise. It distinguishes between the verbs convince and persuade, saying that “convincing involves a person’s beliefs, while persuading involves a person’s actions.”

The book says that Bloomberg journalists “shouldn’t be mouthpieces for any particular agenda” and “must not be involved in political campaigns or contribute funds to candidates, parties or political action committees if that creates a possible conflict of interest with our reporting.”

If Bloomberg Government follows the manual’s strict requirements such as “scrupulous attention to detail” and “an insatiable hunger for knowledge,” it can become a formidable source of immediate factual information about everything that goes on in Washington.

And it may provide great theater in a coming struggle between two of America’s richest news moguls, Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch.

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