Organizationally, Businessweek would be a major test of Winkler’s control. Shortly after the deal closed, Bloomberg hired former Time.com editor Josh Tyrangiel to edit Bloomberg Businessweek. At first, Tyrangiel’s vision clashed with Winkler’s determination to prevent an erosion of the rigid style he’d demanded all these years. In an early staff meeting with members of the magazine, Winkler made it clear that Businessweek would be governed by the same rules that guided his wire service. “He said, ‘Same product, different packaging,’ ” one staffer in the room recalled. After Tyrangiel ran an article Winkler didn’t like, Winkler critiqued the magazine’s use of anonymous sources as sloppy journalism in a weekly memo to the entire newsroom. Still, in the past two years, Tyrangiel has managed to transform the magazine, to critical praise—though a spokesperson confirms that it is projected to lose some $18 million this year.
Opinion journalism has been an even more complicated challenge—but to Bloomberg a necessary one. “He looked around and saw that a lot of the media properties he reads have editorial voices. Bloomberg didn’t,” his communications director, Howard Wolfson, says. “He thought, Why not? He felt there were too many voices on the extremes. There was a need and an opportunity to fill space in the center.”
Pointedly, Bloomberg decided the venture would be housed in the offices of his foundation, independent of Bloomberg News. Bloomberg’s opinion arm was christened Bloomberg View, and Bloomberg personally hired Jamie Rubin, a former State Department spokesperson, to run the View alongside the New York Times’ former deputy opinion editor David Shipley. Bloomberg was vague in his directions, telling staffers that “as long as what they published was “pro-capitalist, pro-freedom,” he’d have no issues, one editor recalls.
A fault line soon opened between Shipley and Rubin. There were personality differences: Shipley is a measured manager, Rubin can be brusque and domineering in meetings. Colleagues were turned off when Rubin invited Admiral Mike Mullen for lunch and excluded certain staff members. Rubin didn’t like the townhouse’s open-plan offices. When his request for an office was rejected, he asked if higher cubicle walls could be installed around his desk. Ultimately, he often worked in a conference room.
Contrary to what Rubin may have wanted, View was beginning to look more newspaper op-ed page than think tank. In June 2011, Rubin pushed to publish an editorial by Stuart Seldowitz, a former State Department official who had been Rubin’s sole hire, that advocated a tougher line on Pakistan than the Obama administration was pursuing. The article sparked a battle between Rubin and his allies and the journalists, who felt it was too aggressive. The editorial was published, but by that point, Rubin and Shipley’s relationship was beyond saving. The journalists saw Rubin as an example of the mayor’s promoting from within his social circle (Rubin’s wife is Christiane Amanpour). “Jamie was referred to as a cocktail-party hire,” one staffer says.
Rubin and Seldowitz were fired last September. “I wish the mayor the best and hope his effort succeeds,” Rubin, who is now an economic adviser to Governor Cuomo, wrote me in an e-mail, “but from my experience there, without some major changes, I don’t believe it will ever be the influential platform he envisioned.”