WSJ swats at Bloomberg's bizjets

 - March 1, 2011, 6:00 AM

The Wall Street Journal has been a vital tool for people who didn’t make their money by winning the lottery, and the publication certainly has its fans here at AIN. Its jingle was once "The daily diary of the American Dream," so one has to wonder why the paper, in its Valentine’s Day edition, skewers a billionaire for making his appointed rounds in a business aircraft?

Michael Bloomberg certainly seems to personify the same American Dream the WSJ promotes as its raison d’être. He has built Bloomberg LP into a colossus of an information empire and, as a pilot, he is enjoying some of his rewards the way people who like to fly do that. Oh yes, he’s also the highly effective Mayor of New York City, he (not the city) pays for all his NYC-related business travel aboard his airplanes, and he draws an annual salary of $1 from Gotham’s beleaguered coffers.

"Air Bloomberg: Flight Records Uncover Elusive Mayor’s Tracks," ran the headline (Flight Records Uncover Elusive Mayor’s Tracks). With a map depicting the frequency of visits to "Air Bloomberg’s" favorite destinations ran a caption: "From 2007 through 2010, Bloomberg Services planes logged 981 flights from New York City-area airports to other locales. Given the size of the fleet, the mayor undoubtedly wasn’t on the majority of the flights." This was the opening round in a sustained volley of lead shot into their own feet by the trio on the article’s byline.

The map ranked the 10 most frequent destinations, including Bermuda (50 times according to the map, 54 times in the story, introducing either an element of intrigue or a sloppy typo) and London (58 times). The article alongside revealed that Bloomberg owns homes in Bermuda and London. Outrageous–a billionaire traveling to his far-flung homes in his own airplane.

The WSJ characterizes Bloomberg LP as "his private financial-information company," prompting the question, whose business is it how a billionaire spends his time and money when he owns 85 percent of the company and answers primarily to his Maker, the wants and needs of the market he serves, and himself?

Bloomberg’s aides said all the right things, but no amount of logic would deter these three scribes. We sent some questions directly to the three and were referred immediately to parent Dow Jones’s PR people, who were not especially chatty: "Per our policy that we don’t publicly discuss our newsgathering, we will decline comment."

Well, there’s your problem. This isn’t newsgathering; it’s titillating gossip, and the majority of the readers who left comments about the article online seem to agree. For example:

• "If this is the new WSJ investigative reporting style, it’s pretty lame."

• "There’s no story to read. He’s a billionaire and spends his own $$ on personal and city business. Why is this even a story?"

• "Don’t we all have anything better to do? The man is wealthy and does his job well. Any poor man in the same office would be costing NY City millions. He really doesn’t need the job, so just shut up and get a life"

• "OK, so the mayor goes to Bermuda a lot, and Florida too, on his company’s private jets. Wow! So what? What a silly article."

• "Who cares. It’s the mayor’s dime

• "The WSJ has outsourced much of its writing to the junior achievement class at the South Wassila School of Journalism and Porcine Dentistry, and they’ve adopted the review standard of just running the whole thing through SpellCheck."

Perhaps the article was more about Bloomberg LP’s juggernaut appetite for market share on Dow Jones’s turf. Shame the jets were caught in the crossfire.

Katy BARR the door.