Friday, October 06, 2006

Cage Wars

Yesterday, Slate's Jack Shafer put up an interesting little article on the rise of Bloomberg News. It is, to be honest, a rather depressing read, describing Bloomberg News as a rather pretty addition to the suite of market data products which drives subscribers to rent Bloomberg's rather expensive terminals. The rather expensive terminals, though, do enable Bloomberg to pay seriously above average salaries to its journalists.

When coupled to the ridiculously prescriptive style manual that it imposes on its employees, you're left with a ridiculously sterile, if remunerative, gig for a seasoned reporter. To be clear, I think that a huge part of the Bloomberg approach to writing is very sensible - you might have a bunch of stockbrokers for readers, but you sure as hell don't have to talk like them.

But this creates a terrible bar to coherence in front of all but the best writers. I've always thought that Brits might value readability over making an honest living, a product no doubt of the humanities heavy, and financially non-burdensome, higher-education system that prevailed till recently in the UK.

As Shafer notes, reporters in the US expect to get paid quite reasonably and at the same time hold on to ridiculously lofty ethical ideals. He doesn't quite say that's headed to extinction, and it's true that some media outlets are doing quite nicely by serving as vehicles for ads to the right demographic.

Bloomberg takes this a step further, with the articles serving as adverts for the pricey subscription service. And thus they have to be timely, plainly written, and no-nonsense. To work at Bloomberg, you need to be smart enough to know when you've got your hands on something good, but so smart as to be using, say "fervid" to describe the state of a market.

The main legend that attaches itself to working for Bloomberg is that once you work there, and leave, you may never be rehired. Which strikes me as the most ridiculously over-the-top corporate self-aggrandisement I've ever encountered. That said, I like living in the city the gaffer's running. To my eternal chagrin.

What was I saying? Oh, yes, working at Bloomberg can be a bit boring, even with the free crisps and whatnot. Money's good, though. Glad you hung on? I don't think so.

Have a good weekend. Here's some anthemic but scratchy Superchunk. Go buy it in hi-fi.

Superchunk - "New Low"
Buy "On The Mouth" here. Won't be 5 quid, but then we can't all be trawling Cambridge vinyl shops all day, can we?


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