Ben Richardson quits Bloomberg News over handling of investigative piece

Ben Richardson has resigned from Bloomberg News after 13 years to protest editors’ handling of an investigative piece reported from China – a story that the bosses feared would get them expelled from the country. (The New York Times broke this story last November, then hired Michael Forsythe, the reporter accused of leaking it to them.)

Richardson, who was an editor at large for Asia news (he edited the enterprise stories and columns), writes in an email: “I left Bloomberg because of the way the story was mishandled, and because of how the company made misleading statements in the global press and senior executives disparaged the team that worked so hard to execute an incredibly demanding story.”

He adds:

Throughout the process, the threat of legal action has hung over our heads if we talked — and still does. That has meant that senior management have had an open field to spin their own version of events. Suffice to say, what you read in the NYT and FT [both stories linked above] was a fair summation.

Ben Richardson (LinkedIn profile image)

Ben Richardson (image from his LinkedIn profile)

Clearly, there needs to be a robust debate about how the media engages with China. That debate isn’t happening at Bloomberg. Clark Hoyt supposedly reviewed the story and declared that it wasn’t ready for publication. But, to my knowledge, he didn’t ring or contact any of the team who worked on the story to discuss it. We don’t even know which version of the story he reviewed. Certainly the final version that I saw had been gutted and narrowed down so much that it could be dismissed as a story about “a bankrupt theatre chain”. The reporters who worked on the story for months didn’t get to review the copy before it was unilaterally spiked on a conference call with a ludicrous amount of top brass. /CONTINUES

Richardson says of last Friday’s Times story about Bloomberg L.P. chairman Peter Grauer:

It’s interesting to see Grauer speak so plainly. He is a straight-talking man and I’ve always enjoyed his frank comments. I enjoyed them especially today in the sense that they illustrate the frame of mind of senior management from the business side — someone should ask Mike to go public on his views on the right to free speech as a universal value. //january town hall. hint hint///

The sad thing about this is that a small group of incompetent and self-serving managers have screwed things up for everyone else. I spent 13 years at the company, as did Mike [Forsythe] I worked with some fantastic people who did and continue to do great work.

What’s next for him? “I am trying to join the great non profit bubble… There’s nothing that covers the region [Asia], which has a real need now that big media has largely left the field.”

* Bloomberg News said to curb articles that might anger China (