Former Bloomberg editor says the news organization should cover Mike Bloomberg's 2020 bid 'aggressively'
Posted December 1, 2019 1:50 p.m. EST
CNN — Kathy Kiely left Bloomberg News in 2016 over the organization's strategy for covering its owner, Michael Bloomberg, as he was considering a bid for president.
These days, the former Bloomberg Washington news director said she feels like she's living in the movie "Groundhog Day."
Bloomberg last week joined the pool of Democratic candidates challenging President Donald Trump in 2020. Soon after his announcement, Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait released a memo saying the news organization would continue to report on the 2020 campaign, but would not "investigate" Bloomberg or his Democratic primary rivals.
"We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries. We cannot treat Mike's Democratic competitors differently from him," Micklethwait wrote.
Kiely told CNN's Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources Sunday that the policy reminds her of the 2016 strategy that caused her to leave the company.
"I felt that that wasn't ethical and it was just an untenable situation for me as the assigning editor to be in," Kiely said. "Unfortunately, they've had four years to think about this and they haven't come up with a better solution. I'm really sorry to see this."
Kiely's view is echoed by some other journalists still working for Bloomberg, one of whom told Stelter last week that the campaign is "everybody's nightmare come true."
The situation — a billionaire media mogul running for president while employing thousands of journalists — is unprecedented. Micklethwait himself acknowledged the challenge it presents for the newsroom in his memo, saying, "there is no point in trying to claim that covering this presidential campaign will be easy for a newsroom that has built up its reputation for independence in part by not writing about ourselves."
But Kiely said she thinks it's not so different from what other newsrooms have to manage. Many others also have wealthy, powerful owners or funders that they must figure out how to cover.
"It's not unprecedented for a rich person to own a news organization and to be covered by that news organization," Kiely said. "I just don't understand why they're making this decision. It really undermines the credibility of the organization that Mike Bloomberg has invested so much money in. As a business decision, it doesn't make sense."
She said she wishes Bloomberg would cover Bloomberg just as it would cover any other candidate, and "cover every candidate aggressively."
Bloomberg News did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.
Kiely now works as a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and said she teaches her students that the press is a "public trust."
"The people who work for these publications aren't serving the owners," Kiely said. "They're serving the people -— the readers, the viewers, the listeners. I think that if you look at it that way, it's a very easy call to make."
She added that Michael Bloomberg himself should stand up for the editorial independence of the newsroom he owns.
"We don't need another billionaire who thinks there should be a special set of rules just for him," Kiely said. "If Mike Bloomberg really wants to distinguish himself from the man he says he wants to beat, he should say: 'Free the press. I can take it, Donald, even if you can't.'"