Does working for Bloomberg News mean never having to say you're sorry?

A couple weeks ago we highlighted some sloppy reporting published by Bloomberg News, and how it botched an article on its own polling data about off-shore drilling and what Americans thought of it. As blogger Josh Nelson first pointed out, Bloomberg News took the findings from the very generic Bloomberg polling question, which found that most Americans still support off-shore drilling, and then Bloomberg News announced that that meant they opposed Obama's off-shore drilling ban.

Not true:

The Bloomberg poll asked a very generic question about banning “off-shore drilling,” but then the article makes reference to “Barack Obama's ban on deepwater oil drilling.” That's not what the poll question asked, though. Meaning, Obama has in place a specific six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling of 1,000 feet or more in the outer continental shelf. That in no way is reflected in a question that asks whether all “off-shore drilling” should be permanently banned.

Bloomberg's polling question was about X, and then Bloomberg News announced it was about Y, and attached Obama's name to it

Again, it was sloppy and misleading stuff that simply cannot be defended. That, in and of itself, was a problem considering how the false Bloomberg conclusion was quickly picked up and trumpeted by oil industry defenders.

What's been even more astounding, in the days and weeks that followed, has been the extraordinarily lengths staffers and executives at Bloomberg News have gone to ignore the obvious mistake. Blogger Nelson has been waging an epic battle and has contacted more than a dozen people associated with Bloomberg News and its polling first and so far nobody --nobody-- will even try to explain how Bloomberg News was able to so badly botch its own polling data, or even acknowledge that it did.

Here's taste of the colossal run-around Nelson has been getting over a provably false claim Bloomberg News made [emphasis original]:

Since Thursday, I've been in contact with the following reporters, editors and public relations staff at Bloomberg news:

  • Kim Chipman -- The reporter who wrote the story.
  • Al Hunt -- Washington Executive Editor.
  • Laura Colby -- Managing Editor.
  • Ronald Henkoff -- Editor.
  • Eric Pooley -- Bloomberg Businessweek Deputy Editor.
  • Ty Trippet -- Director of Global Public Relations.
  • Joe Winski -- Managing Editor, Regulations.
  • William Hawley -- Senior Editor.
  • Jon Asmundsson -- Senior Editor / Strategies Associate Editor.
  • Gail Connor Roche -- Senior Editor.

I did not receive a response from Kim Chipman, William Hawley, Jon Asmundsson, Gail Connor Roche,Laura Colby or Ronald Henkoff. I also reached out to three additional individuals on the Bloomberg public relations staff, but did not hear back from any of them. Both Eric Pooley and Joe Winski told me they'd look into the situation and indicated they'd get back to me, but both subsequently failed to provide any additional information.

Joe Winski informed me that Al Hunt supervises Bloomberg's poll coverage, and that Mr. Hunt wanted me to give him a call to discuss my concerns. After leaving two voicemails for Mr. Hunt without receiving a return call, I finally got through. Mr. Hunt claimed not to know who I was or why I was calling. He told me that he was not the right person to talk to about my concern. He told me to contact him by email, since he was in the middle of a conference call.

Nelson did email Hunt, who responded by rudely dismissing Nelson's point without explanation (i.e., his claim was “silly”).

It's telling that reporters and pundits often bash public officials for their lack of accountability and transparency. But when the roles are reversed and journalists are the ones being asked to explain their mistake, as with case of Bloomberg News, suddenly all that interest in accountability and transparency evaporates and news organizations instead play dumb on a massive and, in this case, embarrassing scale.