The internet has given us so many things, among them jargon which can dress up any brutal corporate maneuver in bland and progressive-sounding language. When Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation decided to seize full control of the Wall Street Journal, the Australian media mogul's chief lieutenant took the title of head of content, reducing the role of managing editor to a cipher and sidestepping the rules intended to protect the editorial independence of the newspaper. And now the new management at Bloomberg's financial information company has played the same trick on the bow-tied tyrant who rules over wire service's newsroom like a dapper Stalin, Matthew Winkler.
Norman Pearlstine, a veteran of Time magazine, is to take on the role of chief content officer at Bloomberg News. He will "partner" with the wire's editor-in-chief "to seek growth opportunities" and "make the most of the existing operations"-a nauseatingly mealy-mouthed a job description even by the despicable standards of modern corporation communications. Both Winkler and Pearlstine will report to Dan Doctoroff, the New York city official whom Bloomberg recently installed to run the business which made the mayor's multi-billion fortune. So, how to read the reorganization?
Winkler is the most widely hated media executive I have ever come across. We ran a tape of the bad-tempered newsroom boss yelling at subordinates who dared question a firing decision, which prompted more than 100 stories of the culture of terror and mind-numbing conformity that he had instilled at the Bloomberg wire service. (You must listen to the clip: "The enemy is the human!") His employees will be hoping that Pearlstine's arrival is part of a plan to reduce Winkler's absolute power, and gradually ease him out of the position he has held for nearly two decades. Winkler is a long-standing sycophant of Bloomberg, who still retains ultimate control of the company he founded, so Doctoroff probably can't remove the newsroom chief in one clean cut.
One sign that it's a humiliation for Winkler: the press release went overboard in touting Winkler's role as founder of Bloomberg News, their reunion of two former colleagues and their "mutual regard." The only departure from implausible corporate boilerplate was Winkler's video message to staff, which accompanied the text of the release. In a widely ridiculed effort to show how with it he is, Winkler has been putting his messages to music. The latest went out with a background of that Beatles song, You say you want a revolution. An unwise question; Winkler would not like the answer. (Please, some brave soul over at Bloomberg HQ, send us the clip!)