NEW YORK -- Al Hunt, Washington editor of Bloomberg News, said he still gets "excited" heading to the political conventions -- even after covering 19 previous Republican and Democratic gatherings over the past 40 years.
Hunt will have plenty of company trekking to Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., in the coming weeks, as Bloomberg announced plans Wednesday to send more than 90 reporters, editors, analysts and producers from throughout the Bloomberg LP juggernaut. That's twice as many as Bloomberg sent in 2008 and three times more than the Associated Press is sending.
"We didn't have the presence in covering politics that we do today," Hunt said of Bloomberg four years ago.
Bloomberg executives often aspire to become the world's "most influential" news organization and its 2012 convention plans reflect both that ambition and just how much the company has expanded since the Obama-McCain race.
Since 2008, Bloomberg bought and revamped Businessweek, launched D.C. subscription service Bloomberg Government, or BGov, started opinion section Bloomberg View, and dropped nearly $1 billion on Arlington, Va.-based legal and business information company BNA. Hunt noted that Bloomberg TV has expanded greatly since four years ago, when it "wasn't a serious television network."
Four years later, Bloomberg's Washington bureau has become one of the largest newsrooms in the capital, with 300 editorial employees and analysts across Bloomberg News, BGov, Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Bloomberg.com. (Bloomberg employs nearly 2,400 journalists in 146 bureaus around the world).
Still, Bloomberg is often perceived as primarily a financial data company, which was how it started when founded three decades ago by Michael Bloomberg, now the New York mayor.
For that reason, the conventions are a "chance for us to show a whole lot of people what we do, what great quality and what diversity we have," said Hunt.
Bloomberg is clearly trying to make a bigger splash this time around. Its headquarters in Tampa and Charlotte will be known as the Bloomberg Link, which a press release said will "incorporate the modern architectural and design elements from the company's signature global offices including everything from open floor plans and stocked pantries to virtual fish tanks." Bloomberg TV will broadcast from the headquarters, as will Charlie Rose's PBS/ Bloomberg TV program.
In addition, Bloomberg will publish a 32-page daily magazine, Bloomberg Insider. Bloomberg, which makes billions largely through its lucrative terminal business, appears to be beefing up its convention presence as other Washington publications scale back. Roll Call recently decided to not publish a print product this convention cycle and is cutting staff in half from 2008 levels. Hunt said the decision to put in addition resources for 2012 wasn't the result of others pulling back.
Even as Bloomberg's branched out since 2008, the media company's roots in financial and business journalism may be what serves it best covering the conventions and home stretch of the 2012 election.
"This campaign is not really about social issues. It’s not really about foreign policy," Hunt said. "One can argue if it should or shouldn’t be. But to paraphrase my dear friend James Carville, 'It's the economy, stupid.'"
And while news organizations may be reluctant to send large numbers of staff to the conventions, given their increasingly scripted nature and lack of drama compared with the smoke-filled rooms of decades past, Hunt said the current nature of the events "doesn't mean our coverage has to be choreographed."
"I don’t want the Obama or Romney people to set the agenda for what we want to do," he said.
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