MIKE IS WATCHING YOU: In another sign that he’s firmly retaken the helm of his namesake media company, Michael Bloomberg this week quietly reinstated its practice of tracking employees’ whereabouts, WWD has learned.
This story first appeared in the December 31, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The system allows everyone in the company to see when their coworkers arrived at work, giving the exact time they swiped their card upon entry. The arrival times are included in intercompany e-mails, according to an insider at Bloomberg, who called the practice a source of paranoia.
A spokeswoman from Bloomberg declined to comment.
Time-stamping had been done away with under former chief executive officer Dan Doctoroff, who headed the company while Bloomberg was otherwise engaged as mayor of New York. Doctoroff called the Big Brother-esque practice counterproductive via an e-mail to staff. For the most part, the decision was met with relief by employees.
But Bloomberg returned to the company that bears his name in September after his 12-year tenure as mayor, and he has been making big changes ever since. Doctoroff exited upon Bloomberg’s arrival, while, earlier this month, the most recent upheaval has been the appointment of John Micklethwait as editor in chief of Bloomberg News, beginning in January. The former editor in chief of The Economist was a surprise replacement for Bloomberg News founding editor Matthew Winkler, who no one thought would ever leave and now has become the organization’s editor in chief emeritus (whatever that title means).
Although his pedigree fits the Bloomberg model — Micklethwait worked at The Economist for 27 years in various reporting and editing roles before taking the editorship in 2006 — many staffers at the financial data and media firm thought Laurie Hays eventually would be given the top spot since she serves as senior executive editor at Bloomberg News, where she supervises more than 1,100 reporters and oversees global coverage of markets, finance, companies, government and economy. Hays joined Bloomberg in 2008, following a 23-year career at The Wall Street Journal, so perhaps the former mayor wanted to bring someone in with a different outlook (not to mention a different accent).
How Micklethwait will steer Bloomberg remains to be seen, but those who know the “intellectual” editor told WWD that he could shift the culture of the organization.
Tim de Lisle, editor of Intelligent Life, The Economist’s bimonthly culture and lifestyle magazine, described Micklethwait’s style as editor as “tactical and practical, with a sharp eye for the bigger picture,” noting that the editor swiftly adapted the title to the digital landscape and has “staunchly” upheld the church-state distinction, “one of the glories of The Economist.”
“He will have about 20 times as many editorial staff, so he will have to be hands-off. He will have more power and probably less influence: The Economist punches above its weight; Bloomberg, not so much. But that may be precisely why they’ve hired him,” de Lisle said.
George Brock, professor of journalism at City University London, said he believes Micklethwait’s appointment is part of Bloomberg’s plans to make the news service more “upmarket,” adding, “[The appointment] seems to me to give powerful support to the idea that Michael Bloomberg, now that he’s taken the reins [at Bloomberg] back, is looking to possibly expand what Bloomberg does…and take it upmarket a bit. It would be a very odd choice of editor in chief, unless that was in your mind.” Brock also pointed to ongoing rumors that Bloomberg is considering an acquisition of either The Financial Times or The New York Times as another factor behind Micklethwait’s appointment. “If [an acquisition] were to be in Bloomberg’s head, an editor in chief with that kind of clout would be the sort of person you might want to see in charge,” observed Brock.
Putting that aside, Micklethwait likely will have more immediate adjustments to tend to, including adapting to Bloomberg’s revived time-stamping system. Talk about watching the clock.