Billionaire New York mayor-for-life Mike Blomberg has a dream: a dream that one day, through sheer spending power alone, he can build an editorial Centrist Dream Team that is as lavishly paid as it is widely ignored. His dream has come true.
In The New Republic today, Laura Bennett takes a look at Bloomberg View, the opinion section of Bloomberg News. Bloomberg View is built upon this foundation: It has absolutely no reason to exist, other than the personal preference of Michael Bloomberg. It caters to no existing demand. (There are not reams of traders pounding their Bloomberg terminals each day and crying, "Enough with the financial news, I need some mildly prescriptive Peter Orszag columns about common sense and efficiency!") On top of that, as a rich man's pet project, it does not even have the good fortune to be the pet project of an inherently interesting rich man. An editorial board personally assembled by Larry Flynt might possess a natural public draw. An editorial team personally assembled by Mike Bloomberg just possesses Ezra Klein, on his off days.
Bloomberg View is too "centrist" to attract many readers who are not already likely to be reading Bloomberg for one reason or another. It is not that it lacks quality—some of its columnists are quite good—but that it lacks any real diversity. It offers the reader no potential surprises. Its spectrum of opinions runs from "we could use some moderate reforms" to "we could use some other, equally moderate reforms." As a team, Bloomberg View's stable of writers lacks pizzazz. What they do not lack, thanks to their billionaire patron, is money.
One former columnist based out of town had travel and accommodations written into his contract, which ended up including stays at five-star Manhattan hotels. Another was told off the bat that he'd be making "six figures, the first of which will be a two" with no specifications for weekly output. And for particularly big-name contributors, the numbers are even more boggling. Michael Lewis makes around $8,000 per 1,200-word column.
Michael Bloomberg dreams of Bloomberg View supplanting the New York Times as the wealthy establishment's opinion section of choice. With salaries like that, there's no doubt that many people at the New York Times are dreaming even more feverishly of Michael Bloomberg buying the New York Times.
They don't even get free coffee over there.