So much for editorial freedom

Much of the major media in the US is privately owned, by individuals, families, or corporations. These media love to insist that they have complete editorial freedom and that the owners do not exert any pressure on them as to what to write about and how. That is of course rubbish. In cases like Fox News, the owner’s wishes are explicit and manifestly followed. But in less overtly propagandistic outlets, editorial control by the owners is exercised more subtly. The editors are selected because their views conform to those of the owners, and that process filters all the way down the line.

But on some occasions, if the issue is important enough to the owner, even that thin mask of editorial independence is ripped away and the owner gives direct orders as to what the editorial line should be. We see that with billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s entry into the presidential race. He is the owner of Bloomberg News and he has made it very clear that his outlet should not criticize him. In an effort to retain a shred of credibility as a news organization, the editor says that they will also refrain from investigating other Democratic presidential candidates.

I feel sorry for the reporters at Bloomberg News. It is easy for outsiders to say that they should quit. I am sure that many are looking for other jobs where the control is less overt but the job market in media is tight.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Given the wording of the memo, it would seem that not investigating Bloomberg is a long-established policy of his organization.

    “We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation )…”

  2. says


    This is a long-established practice among media owners and the journalists who work for them..

    Journalist understand that objectivity is a myth only introduced in the second half of the 20th century as a result of the Federal Communications Commission in the oversight of broadcast media most commonly referred to as the fairness doctrine.

    We can do our best to be fair, but, in the main, a journalist’s job is to tell the story the person who signs their check wants told.

    If they have a problem with that then they need to find employment (or self-employment, see Roldo Bartimole) where they can tell the story that they subjectively believe to be correct.

    Freedom of the press is quite literal: someone who owns a printing press (or any method of production/distribution) may publish what they wish.


    Jeff Hess
    Have Coffee Will Write

  3. brucegee1962 says

    I don’t think there was any mythical time in the past when newspapers or any other media was truly independent of the almighty dollar. Owners have called the shots since the first broadsheets.
    It does give me one more reason to dislike Bloomberg, though, so thanks.

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