Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Michael Bloomberg (apparently now wanting to be known by the more friendly appellation, “Mike”) has chosen to attempt to buy the presidency of the United States with his own money. He is taking nary a drachma from anyone.

Of course, he doesn’t need to. According to Forbes, he is No. 8 on their list of the wealthiest in the U.S. and clocks in with a net worth of $35 billion – with a B.

Without wife, kids, guns or ammunition, he’s got the bucks to run for president on his own.

Yet, here’s the rub. He owns 88 percent of Bloomberg, LP, a media company. Just “Bloomberg,” as it is known on Wall Street, became successful by placing its own terminals in brokerage houses and delivering timely information to stockbrokers and analysts.

I remember wandering through the canyons of Wall Street in the nascent days of the internet and every office had “Bloombergs” – a linked system of terminals delivering data and appropriate financial news in a very timely manner.

These days, while still delivering financial data per its heritage, Bloomberg, the media company, is delivering news far afield. See Bloomberg.com to understand what I am saying.

This leads to a potential conflict. “Mike” Bloomberg’s political ads look like political ads – no problem here. But Bloomberg the media company looks like an online newspaper (a very successful one in these days of newspaper death). Do you think that “Mike” (remember, 88 percent owner) has any influence over what stories are covered or not covered in Bloomberg the media company?

As I write this on Wednesday, Jan. 22, the Bloomberg home page, in the Opinion box in the upper right-hand corner, has these three headlines: “Everybody is Guilty in the Senate’s Impeachment Farce,” “Trump’s Impeachment Trial Isn’t His Biggest Risk” and “Elizabeth Warren is Right About Student Debt Relief.” That is just on the home page.

In the old days, at least the muckrakers did not personally aspire to the highest office in the land. They may have done everything they could to elect their favorites, but they did not short-circuit the process as Mike has.

What is interesting is that no national names or bodies seem to have noticed what Mike is doing here and the potential for abuse that goes along with it.

According to Wikipedia, “Bloomberg News (originally Bloomberg Business News), is an international news agency headquartered in New York and a division of Bloomberg L.P. Content produced by Bloomberg News is disseminated through Bloomberg Terminals, Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg Radio, Bloomberg Businessweek, Bloomberg Markets, Bloomberg.com and Bloomberg's mobile platforms.”

Wikipedia goes on to say, “By 1995, Bloomberg News had 335 reporters in 56 locations. The initial goal of Bloomberg Business News to increase terminal sales was adequately met by the mid-nineties and refocused the scope to their news service in order to rival the profitability of other media groups such as Reuters and Dow Jones. This led to the creation of Bloomberg's magazine, Bloomberg Personal in 1995, which would be carried in the Sunday edition of 18 U.S. papers.”

This is not some small news operation focused on a niche market. It is obviously of a size to be a major influence. Whether it is promoting stories helpful or killing stories unhelpful to its 88 percent shareholder is hard to say, but certainly worth watching with a jaundiced eye.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at jthompson@taii.com.