Monday, February 16, 2009

The wonders of Bloomberg

Last month, I had been given a grant by the Rory Peck Trust to take a training course on being a journalist in hostile environments. These are very expensive, week-long courses offered to journalists and aid workers who work in war zones. Back then, given my work in Sudan, I thought it was high time I did such a course. The training was in London, England, and this grant - given to freelancers who can't afford the training themselves - covered most of the cost. So I signed up for it, only to have to leave Sudan a few weeks later. Still, I thought it would be a worthwhile thing to do because who knows where I will end up. So here I am in London! And I came a few days early in order to discover the city, meet some friends and take care of some business.

One of my first stops was the Bloomberg office, to meet some editors and get registered in the Bloomberg system (There is no office in Sudan, and so, until I got to the small Cairo office, I had never met anyone that I worked with).

All I can say is WOW. The biggest newsroom in Canada doesn't even come close. I have never seen anything like this. When you walk in, it almost feels like a bar, it's so dimly-lit. Security guards wearing ear pieces and suits guard the front escalators. A woman sitting in front of a digital screen checks your identity. Once you get past the woman and the guards, you ride the escalators - lined with neon blue lights - up to the reception. They take a picture of you, print it on the spot, and make you a badge. To the left is a massive snack bar with all-you-can-eat chips, fruit, drinks and other treats for the employees. Red couches along the side make the place feel like a cool evening lounge. Then through a hallway into the newsroom area are three floors of journalists, all visible through the transparent glass walls, ceiling to floor. At each desk (ie. for one person) are between 2 and 4 computer screens. Each desk is also lined with a "Bloomberg" notepad, "Bloomberg" pencil and tons of coffee-stained paper "Bloomberg" cups. They have an incredible system of financial analysis - stats, graphs, calculators, analyst recommendations, contact numbers - all right there in the system. Financial reporters can just punch in whatever commodity or company they are looking at, and up comes a whole series of analysis and numbers - gold prices went up because of this, gas prices are 40% lower than yesterday, etc. etc. It's truly madness. It had been a long time since I was in any news room at all, and this one just blew my mind...

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