Bloomberg Is No Savior

Oh no: yet another macher proposing mayor Michael Bloomberg step in to save the New York Times. This time it's Vanity Fair's Michael Wolff who, like the Wall Street Journal's former managing editor and that shouter from cable, believes the besieged newspaper could do worse than seek rescue by New York's billionaire mayor.

Wolff, author of one of the greatest chronicles of business failure, Burn Rate, writes: "And he's a man who would be trusted, maybe the man who would be most trusted, by the Times core constituency, the moderate-liberal establishment, to be a proper steward — he, by himself, might bring value to the Times."

The proposal makes superficial sense. Bloomberg, whose wealth is estimated at $11.5bn by Forbes, can afford the New York Times, which has a market capitalization of a mere $2.8bn. He does indeed have political views that mesh with those of the Times' defenders, as Wolff says. And the mayor shows no sign of political ambition after the expiry of his term; ownership of the New York Times would provide a platform, without the stress of national office, or the boredom of Albany.

But the idea that Bloomberg can provide a nurturing environment for great journalism is, despite the mayor's success in building New York's biggest private information company, entirely unproven. Bloomberg LP is of course primarily a financial information business, providing terminals and data to traders in bonds and other financial markets. The company's wire service arm is an adjunct, and a clumsily managed one at that.

To be sure, Bloomberg would never be so crass as to impose his mediocre editorial management on a newspaper as reputed as the Times. But the newspaper's reporters, and supporters, ought to wonder a little more about a proprietor who has allowed petty tyrants like this to rule over an unhappy newsroom for more than a decade. There's only one consolation: at least the meetings are lively. In case you haven't already heard it, here's audio of Bloomberg's pet editor, ghost writer of his autobiography, ranting at disobedient reporters.