New York Times CEO Mark Thompson hits out at Bloomberg for putting 'commercial interests ahead of journalism' in China row

New York Times CEO and president Mark Thompson has hit out at Bloomberg for putting “commercial interests ahead of journalism” after Bloomberg chairman Peter T Grauer appeared to backtrack on stories related to Chinese officials after the country issued a ban.

Comments: Mark Thompson spoke at the FT's digital media conference

Discussing Bloomberg’s comments during a speech at the Financial Times Digital Media Conference in London, the former director-general of the BBC said that the right to a free press was under attack both at a domestic and international level and insisted the New York Times would not bow to commercial pressures and would strive to keep to its core principles of reporting the news “impartially, without fear or favour, regardless of party, sect or interest involved”.

China clamped down on relations with Bloomberg following an article published by the company in June 2012 regarding the wealth of the then incoming Communist party chief’s family wealth.

In a speech last week, Grauer said of China: “We have to be there. We have about 50 journalists in the market, primarily writing stories about the local business and economic environment.

“You’re all aware that every once in a while we wander a little bit away from that and write stories that we probably may have kind of rethought – should have rethought.”

Thompson hit back: “Soon after the New York Times was bought in 1896, a set of principles were published. Famously, the vision was to give the news impartially without fear or favour, regardless of party, sect or interest involved.

“In 2014, 118 years later, those principles, and even the right of a free, fearless press to exist are under attack from powerful foreign governments and those companies who put commercial interests ahead of journalism, and from our own government.

“The UK authorities’ intimidation of the Guardian over the Edward Snowden story and in the US the ongoing judicial hounding of the New York Times journalist James Risen stands as witness to that.”

He added: “The continued moral commitment and economic viability of journalists who do still hold to the original vision and are prepared to stand up to opponents of press freedom at home and abroad matters more than ever. The New York Times remains such an institution.”

According to Thompson, the New York Times has faced similar commercial fallout from China over its investigative journalism and its websites have been blocked for 18 months.

Last week, Huffington Post CEO Jimmy Maymann told The Drum that the title was in talks about opening a Chinese edition as part of its global rollout, but said they may pull it if HuffPost is uncomfortable with the terms it would be required to operate under.

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