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Bloomberg News in Spotlight as Layoffs Follow China Mothballing, Spygate

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bloomberg LP has been making news lately almost as much as it reports the world's happenings, a situation that can't be to the liking of its editor-in-chief, the sometimes volatile Matt Winkler.

The world's largest news organization made headlines on Monday when it laid-off around 40 reporters and editors, including some of its older and best-known journalists. The reordering of Bloomberg's investigations, entertainment and sports groups came as Michael Forsythe, another longtime and award-winning reporter, said via Twitter on Tuesday that he too would be leaving the New York-based media and financial services company.

Forsythe was suspended last week after news outlets, including the New York Times, reported that top editors had elected not to publish an investigative story about China because of concerns it could jeopardize Bloomberg's terminal sales in the country. Winkler, who fiercely denied the story was killed, defended his decision to shelve Forsythe's report, likening it to the actions of foreign news bureaus that practiced self-censorship in order to remain in Germany during the Nazi reign, the Times reported.

In a Twitter posting Tuesday, Forsythe said he was leaving the company. "I can confirm that I have left Bloomberg News. That's all I'm going to say for now," read the tweet.

A Bloomberg spokesman didn't immediately return a phone call and e-mail for comment.

Winkler, who has been known to shout loudly in the company's expansive New York newsroom, was thrown into a maelstrom of allegations in May that reporters had snooped on terminal users despite complaints from investment banking clients and their employees. The dust-up gave rivals an opportunity for ample schadenfreude but the repercussions on its business appeared to be short-lived.

In a message sent this morning to the company's roughly 2,000 reporters and editors, Winkler said Monday's layoffs were the product of internal decisions about which kinds of stories allow Bloomberg News to best distinguish its news division from rival outlets. Privately-held Bloomberg generates the bulk of its revenue from leasing its proprietary investor-focused terminals that generate data and trading platforms that have become standard among financial institutions worldwide.

"One lesson we learned was that we must have the courage to say no to certain areas of coverage in order to have enough firepower in areas we want to own," Winkler wrote in the e-mail. "We are convinced that the changes will help us take Bloomberg News to another level of influence."

As a result, Bloomberg all but shuttered its entertainment team known as Muse, while cutting longtime editor Jeffrey Burke and books editor Laurie Muchnick. Some of Muse's reporting about the business of the arts will be folded into the news division's Investing team. Sports, for instance, will no longer track individual ball games, an exercise that arguably did little to differentiate Bloomberg from any number of sports Web sites.

Winkler said that its investigative team, for which Forsythe wrote, would be reorganized around a Projects team based in Washington.

Others cut from the Bloomberg payroll include four-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Sydney Freedberg, Detroit-based autos editor Bill Koenig, technology columnist and former Wall Street Journal editor Rich Jaroslovsky, Elliot Blair Smith, an investigative reporter and a winner of the Gerald Loeb Award, Charles Babcock, an investigations editor and arts reporter Philip Boroff, a 17-year Bloomberg employee.

Here's the full e-mail from Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief Matt Winkler to his news staff: 

When we announced the management reorganization a little more than a month ago, we said we wanted to be ideally positioned for growth, foster deeper collaboration, and develop our news products. Since then, we evaluated everything we're doing to determine what's working and what isn't, with the single aim to ensure all we do has maximum impact. One lesson we learned was that we must have the courage to say no to certain areas of coverage in order to have enough firepower in areas we want to own.

It's against this backdrop that we had to make some difficult decisions today. We were able to reassign a number of people to new positions, and we are grateful for the contributions of those who no longer can be part of our organization. We are convinced that the changes will help us take Bloomberg News to another level of influence.

We decided to scale back arts coverage and no longer use the Muse brand, and we'll align our leisure reporting with Pursuits and the luxury channel on the Web. Executive Editor Manuela Hoelterhoff, who initiated luxury coverage at Bloomberg, will now oversee new book projects while continuing the cultural coverage for which she received a Pulitzer Prize and Guggenheim fellowship. We will create an editing hub for the Projects team in Washington and no longer have editors dispersed around the world, to further empower the writers; we decided to focus our AV team on LIVE , which terminal customers depend on, and stop the parallel editing of video that the multimedia team already does. We also decided to concentrate our sports coverage on the nexus with business and no longer do match reports. In beat reporting, we identified some savings thanks to closer collaboration among the newly united teams.

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The changes today are a precursor for significant growth in 2014, especially in First Word and Emerging Markets. We also have high ambitions for beat and investigative reporting, and Bloomberg News will be bigger next year than it was at the end of October. Our commitment to the best journalism - both this-just-in and in-depth narratives - has never been greater.

--Leon Lazaroff, who covers the media industry at TheStreet, worked for seven years for Bloomberg News.

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