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In Conversation: Michael Bloomberg

Does the future of journalism include you owning the Financial Times or the New York Times?
The Financial Times is not for sale. The New York Times is certainly not for sale.

But I’ve always said if you read Bloomberg Businessweek and The Economist cover to cover every week, you will know more than if you read the newspapers every day. And it’s probably true. And I think I’d say that about Businessweek even if it wasn’t owned by Bloomberg.

And if the Times were for sale?
I can’t answer a question like that. There are a handful of great newspapers with great journalism still. I don’t necessarily agree with their editorial policies or even their front page, but the Times is one of the great newspapers.

So you’d be interested.
As a reader, yes.

No, as a businessman.
I just can’t answer your question because you don’t know—I think the future of print journalism is problematic. Why Bezos bought the Post, I have no idea. He said that he wasn’t going to get involved in it. What’s the point of owning it if you don’t? Certainly not to make money. If you wanna have fun, buy the New York Post.

So you should buy the Post.
No. I would try to upscale it, and that’s what would destroy it. Plus, I heard this weekend from somebody who probably does know about the Post, and he says it’s losing over $100 million a year. That’s a lot of money for a vanity thing.

It’s tough out there on the Internet.
It’s just another disruptive technology that has come along. You may want to do this story sometime: Try to figure out where the jobs of the future are gonna come from. My ­barber—it’s not inconceivable at some point you’ll stick your head in a box, and boom, out you come all coiffed. It is a very big problem for society. The knowledge world destroys jobs. I was on a panel with Mark Zuckerberg: “We’re gonna create so many jobs.” Go to Google and you’ll be shocked at the lack of diversity and how few people really are creating all that stuff.

The gains in technology make it easier to live and work far from an office. Yet big cities have grown and become even more vital. Why is that?
Fifteen, twenty years ago, when telecommuting was going to be big, I kept saying, “No!” Skype didn’t exist back then, but being on a conference call isn’t the same as standing at the water cooler. It just isn’t. And I think you gotta go to work. And I think people should be next to each other to the extent possible.

But the 24-year-old Mike Bloomberg, in 2014, couldn’t come to New York and find a cheap apartment anymore. Or if he did, it would be with six other guys.
I don’t know, but my guess is that if you and I were sitting around the table back 40 years ago, you would have said the same thing. It’s like the way we think the music that we have is okay, but the next generation’s music is crap. “I could never get into that school today”—that’s all bullshit. Things are changing, but I don’t subscribe to that.

And incidentally, we’ve gotten back 300 percent of the jobs we lost during the recession; the country’s got back 79 percent. So there’s a lot of jobs available in New York. We have more people working in New York than ever before. We’ve created jobs at every level. The ones that are the hardest to create are at the bottom. The top will take care of itself if you have a good immigration policy, set a reasonable tax structure, have clean streets and safe streets and culture and that sort of thing. It’s at the bottom that you really gotta see how you can get jobs for people who don’t have a lot of skills.

How can you?
Our answer to that has been tourism as much as anything—last year, we had 52 million visitors. This year, we think we’ll come up with something like 53 and a half. Our objective is 55 by 2015, and if the next administration doesn’t screw it up, you’ll get there. It creates an enormous amount of jobs. Middle-class jobs, too, incidentally.

Clearly you believe that mayor is not just an important job, but a great job.
You get a real chance to change the world. New York City—listen, when California banned smoking, no one paid attention. When New York banned smoking, all the rest of Europe, all of Latin America, parts of Asia now, every big city, even the Tobacco Belt in America, they were all smoke free.