"Winkler is a wanker"

So, help us unpick this media lore. It's an old story, about Bloomberg's tyrannical editorial boss, Matt Winkler, that goes something like this. Ever wonder why the financial news service's reporters are barred from sending headlines directly to the wire unsupervised? One of the many reporters fired by Winkler got onto his machine and ,as a last gesture before exiting the building, fired off a salvo of flashes. The big news: "Matt Winkler Is A Wanker." I imagine there are other reasons Bloomberg reporters, like nuclear missile launch operators, would require a second key: their headlines can trigger trades worth billions of dollars. But this story sticks around; there must be something to it. So, wire-service veterans, true or false, or somewhere in between? (Oh, and if anyone has a tape of Winkler's subsequent outburst, anything as titanic as this one, please send it in.)

The "wanker" story is legendary and numerous Bloombergers have insisted on its veracity to me, although like a great story few were around for first hand, the details seem to be crossing over into the realm of myth. According to some of their guys I was having drinks with a few years back, it was an night editor who blew his stack in Tokyo. What made it worse was that the hedes were "red stickies." They didn't just scroll by – these hedes had coding of such high importance they stayed glued to the top of the screen. As told to me, they had trouble getting the hedes killed and they just sat there.

The headline read "Winkler Wanker Winkler Wanker". It was posted by a disgruntled editor who had recently left and let himself back into the zero-security London office. The company sued the employee for everything under the sun, but the judge found him guilty only on the minor charge of theft of electricity. That I can confirm. This bit I'm not 100 percent sure on: the story at the time was that the editor had logged on as Mike Bloomberg (any Bloomberg employee could look up any other's login) and, along with his headline, sent rude messages from Mike to the Bloomberg terminals of the head of the SEC and the Fed chairman, among others.

A few weeks ago, clients of Bloomberg Business News saw a strange headline floating across their computer screens: "Winkler Wanker, Winkler Wanker." It was, insiders realized, a derogatory reference to Editor in Chief Matthew Winkler. In London this week, Scotland Yard police arrested a former Bloomberg editor on charges of violating the country's computer security laws. London bureau chief Doug McGill said the former editor (whose name has not been released) was fired earlier this year. [Washington Post, September 1994]

Enough of that. Back to the wanker. The way I heard it shortly after I had left was that the Screaming Dwarf fired the senior London night editor in another fit of rage. Forgetting that the London night editor had control over the computers in the dead time period. The editor spent considerable time, energy and creativity to create a blanket headline over-ride (or whatever the boffins might call it) that — according to my gleeful informant — over-rode everything else proudly to proclaim in an endlessly scrolling screenful of headlines: