Bloomberg Boss Lectures Businessweek NewbiesS

BusinessWeek has been absorbed into the Bloomberg mothership. Now, shouty Bloomberg standards enforcer Matthew Winkler is gently teaching the new guys how to do "journalism." A tipster forwarded us this lecturey item from Winkler's year-end "Weekly notes" memo, below.

1. ANONYMOUS
News engenders the most trust and is most actionable when attribution for assertions and quotations is transparent.
Bloomberg News, since its inception, uses anonymous sourcing reluctantly only when the benefit of reporting something that is actionable outweighs the lack of definitive attribution.
We shun anonymous quotations and assertions that are negative because readers have no proof that they are more credible than hearsay. In an age when news increasingly is asserted, we must be fact-driven. For every assertion, there should be an example or anecdote and comment from a recognized authority.
These examples from Bloomberg BusinessWeek, some written by Bloomberg News reporters, don't meet these standards.

Unattributed quotations:
Meeting with him, says one executive, was ``a sphincter-tightening experience.''
Several GM executives say the uncertainty is hurting morale. ``It's almost like experience is a liability these days,'' one says.
((Each instance allows the accuser to hide without giving a sense of their position, experience or relevance to the news.))

Imprecise or opaque sourcing:
Particularly worrisome to GM veterans are the actions of private equity executives Steve Girsky, David Bonderman and Daniel Akerson.
GM has long needed an independent board, but GM insiders fear that too much second-guessing could prevent the company from sticking to a clear strategy.
GM insiders complain that the trio has already brought to bear the private-equity obsession with cost cutting at a company that badly needs to deploy its government-financed cash hoard to develop new cars and technology.
((What's a veteran or an insider? This is written for the sources, not for the readers.))
In another move, Bloomberg BusinessWeek has learned, Best Buy plans to launch its own advertising business early next year.
((How do we know this?))
This game of political chicken, observers say, is likely to produce only partial victory, with the Fed hanging onto most, but not all, of its vast power.
((What's an observer? It's part of the vast Greek chorus, without any explanation why that opinion matters.))
Abu Dhabi may go after some pieces in exchange for bailout money, say analysts.
While many analysts fear that Citi in particular isn't ready to fly solo, the White House gave its blessing.''
((Not all analysts are created equal. Some are more insightful or accurate. Providing names and credentials would make their points more credible.))
More broadly, governance experts worry the new board is overreaching.
((While this sentence sets up the story, no governance experts are quoted as worrying.))
Pandit's hoping to hash out a plan in the next week or so, say people familiar with the situation.
((Adding the number of people and how they are aware of the plans would make this more credible. The most accurate people are those taking part in the action.))

These quotes add little that would require anonymity and would gain credibility by adding the person's name and credentials:
``We were dark for a very long time,'' says a senior executive who is helping find a new CMO.
``Why would I buy AOL?'' asks a large media investor. ``It would largely be a bet on Tim, given what he was able to do at Google.''

These attributions meet our standards:
The board batted the proposal back, say three people familiar with the meeting.
One of the three private equity directors asked if GM could buy an engine from someone else, say two people with knowledge of the meeting.

For more on sourcing and attribution, see the Ethics chapter in the Bloomberg Way.