Whatever motivated Freedman's decision to leave her job, the appointment is certainly another signal that Thomson Reuters is in a major contest for dominance with its principal rival, Bloomberg, a comparably ambitious provider of financial data and news. A series of appointments lately has added a roster of stellar names to the Thomson Reuters enterprises. Among the high-profile arrivals are Chrystia Freeland, who was managing editor of the United States edition of the Financial Times; David Rohde and David Cay Johnston, two Pulitzer winners who had highly visible runs at the New York Times; Jim Ledbetter, who was editor of Slate's short-lived financial spin-off; and just recently, Jack Shafer, who was Slate's respected media critic. In addition, Reuter's Felix Salmon has become a notable figure in the crowded field of financial bloggers.
The Reuters opinion team includes contributors of the standing of Larry Summers, formerly a top adviser to President Obama and a treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, and Mohamad A. el Erian, chief executive officer of Pimco, one of the most visible and influential executives in the financial stratosphere.
Bloomberg has amassed a similarly impressive roster as it launches its opinion section, Bloomberg View, and is investing in Bloomberg Businessweek and its multiple news teams in Washington and around the world. (Ironically, Adler was the last editor of Businessweek as it was unloaded by McGraw Hill because it was struggling financially.)
The growth of Thomson Reuters since their merger in 2008 and the rise of Bloomberg (about which I wrote about in May 2010) are major developments in journalism that aren't fully recognized by the public at large because so much of their activity and income comes from financial data on terminals and in specialized packages. Unlike the leading newspapers in this arena that also have formidable ranks of reporters, commentators and editors--the New York Times, Financial Times, and Wall Street Journal--the lack of a daily anchor in print seems to reduce the visibility of their output in the traditional competition for attention in mainstream news circles.
Because Bloomberg is privately owned, it is hard to know just how profitable it is, but every indication is that it has come through the prolonged financial crisis since 2008 without any meaningful loss of momentum. Thomson Reuters is a more complicated situation. According to a recent takeout in the Wall Street Journal, the Thomson family and its investment arm, Woodbridge, which controls the majority of shares in the enterprise, is "impatient with the company's performance." Like Bloomberg, Thomson Reuter's revenue is significantly tied to its sales of sophisticated and extensive material, to Wall Street, and to the international banking community through its markets division. Over the summer, Thomson Reuters restructured the markets division, leading to the departure of six top executives. The division now reports to Tom Glocer, CEO of Thomson Reuters, who led Reuters into the deal with Thomson. The stock price of Thomson Reuters has been lagging, and posted a fifty-two-week low recently, a drop of almost 20 percent this year.