This essential piece on the collapse of Bloomberg's investigative journalism project in China contains an excellent example of modern thinking:
The defining moment, however, the one that has dealt the deepest shock to Bloomberg and may affect it for years, was a widely reported speech by the company’s chairman, Peter T. Grauer, who in March said, in effect, that Bloomberg had gotten carried away with its investigative journalism in China to the detriment of its true vocation: selling computerized terminals that provide financial information...
...During his Hong Kong visit, according to people present, Grauer had also told the bureau there that the company’s sales team had been forced to do a “heroic job” repairing the company’s relations with Chinese officials following the Xi Jinping story. He warned the Bloomberg staff that the company would “be straight back in the shit-box” in China if “we were to do anything like that again,” one source said.
Such heroic salespeople! Bloomberg's dependence on data terminals made it more vulnerable than more conventional journalistic outlets to pressure from Beijing. Even so, The NYT's investigation of the finances of China's top leadership focused on Wen Jiabao, who's basically nobody these days. Bloomberg showed no such circumspection, going straight at the big boss. So in the end it's not such a surprise that they ended up deciding that business was their business.
Some of the ways Beijing went about leaning on Bloomberg were quite subtle:
According to a mid-October email exchange whose content was shared with me, this happened after an executive with a global investment bank with business in China remarked to a Bloomberg sales agent on the recent slowness of the company’s terminal data from China, mentioning that he had heard that Bloomberg was about to drop another investigative “bombshell” about the country.
Others less so:
Meanwhile, just prior to publication, Forsythe, the lead writer on the pending Xi article, who was then based in Beijing with his family, began receiving death threats. The first of these was indirectly conveyed via a China scholar at Columbia University who was passing along a conversation he had heard from a Chinese acquaintance, saying vaguely that Forsythe had better watch out. Later, Forsythe received a similar message relayed via a foreign press colleague in Beijing.
“What was extremely upsetting to me was that when we started getting death threats, Bloomberg told us that we were not allowed to speak about it,” said Leta Hong Fincher, a China scholar who is married to Forsythe.
I remember when Leta Hong Fincher revealed this on twitter. According to the article, Bloomberg have since threatened legal action against her, apparently for breaking the non-disclosure agreement signed by her husband when he left the company.
I can understand why Bloomberg dropped their venture into investigative journalism; they were always a business-first kind of organisation, and good journalism gets in the way of business. What I don't understand is why unknown associates of the family of China's president making death threats to a journalist with a major international news group never became a story in itself.