Between February 3 and 4 of 2009, more than 100 Bloomberg Radio and TV staffers were laid off at their world headquarters in New York.
It was an unprecedented move for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s financial news outlet, with no layoffs in the company’s previous 28 years of existence.
One of those people sent packing was notable news anchor Mike Schneider. Schneider granted FishbowlNY an exclusive interview–his first since leaving Bloomberg LP.
“The night before it happened I actually looked at Norm Barnett [6pm producer] and I said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’”
Barnett’s response, according to Schneider, “You think so?”
Both men laughed knowing what the next day would likely bring.
When the next day arrived, as anticipated, Schneider had an impromptu meeting with Andy Lack [chief executive for multimedia unit].
“I knew what was coming by the time I went up to discuss it with him,” Schneider recalls.
His first words after Lack informed him were “These things are never pretty.”
To which, according to Schneider, Lack replied, “No, they’re not.”
“He [Lack] was very respectful of me, and I harbor no hard feelings, whatsoever,” Schneider says. “He’s got a job to do over there, and he felt that these things were necessary.”
Looking back at the events of 18 months ago, Schneider brings his signature gravitas to the situation.
“I’ve been in this business for three decades. I’ve seen cutbacks come in every decade,” Schneider says. “With what was going on on Wall Street, and with the fact that leadership had changed at Bloomberg in order to try to deal with the new realities of the business world…I wasn’t surprised.”
But the veteran newsman was concerned for his talented friends who joined him on the unemployment line.
“A lot of the people with whom I worked that got laid off were, and are, very good people,” Schneider says. “Nobody likes to see good people get hurt.”
• After the jump, Schneider discusses why he’d enjoy a return to Bloomberg.
The wholesale cuts at Bloomberg only translated into about a 1 percent company loss from the more than 10,000 employees worldwide.
At the time, a Bloomberg spokesperson said the layoffs were the direct result of reorganizing their radio and TV departments to bureaus overseas, and not connected to the recession.
“It would be hard to believe that it wasn’t somewhere related to it,” Schneider says. “But on the other hand…they have within the company, a broadcast division that has enormous potential. When they brought in Andy there was no doubt that he was going to try to seek, what in his opinion, would be the most effective way to maximize that potential.”
Given the unique situation, each employee upon being given the difficult news was also told that they could reapply for future positions at the company. Other than in extremely rare instances, anyone who left Bloomberg, either of their own accord or by firing, was never permitted back to work.
Schneider, 57, doesn’t know if they would actually rehire those staffers, but he’d welcome it.
“If I was going to return any place in this day and age, I’d just as soon return to Bloomberg, if given the opportunity…” Schneider admits. “Bloomberg still has, number one, the biggest footprint around the world …and they have not gone down the road that many of the broadcasters have.”
Specifically, Schneider is referring to the quality seen across their various platforms.
“They haven’t sold out to cheap, exploitative kind of measures to attract and maintain a mass audience.”
The business news giant enticed prospective employers with highly competitive wages and extraordinary perks (including off-hours town car transportation). However, due to several factors, many staffers over the years walked away for other media outlets or other careers entirely.
Insiders say that many hired came on board for the money, but eventually left to maintain their well-being.
Schneider, though, doesn’t subscribe to that theory, and once again chooses the high road.
“Any operation is going to have people who don’t fulfill their own personal ambitions,” Schneider says. “And when they don’t, they’re going to be frustrated and they’re going to leave–sometimes with justification, sometimes just because that’s the way life is…I think that most people found the work fulfilling.”
Part of making the experience so rewarding for the accomplished anchor was what Bloomberg had to offer.
“Bloomberg is unique in one particular way,” Schneider says. “It is a broadcast operation that is essentially a wire service. …We had more access to more people in more places than anybody else around.”
Schneider, who was an anchor on WCBS-TV/Channel 2 in the late 1980s, spent six years at Bloomberg–the longest gig of his career.
During that time, the veteran anchor was proudest for creating (and hosting) “Night Talk.”
With support from Mike Clancy and Beatrice Myers, who Schneider previously worked for at NBC’s “Weekend Today,” Schneider showcased a guest list from various industries, including entertainment and sports, Nobel Prize winners and elected officials.
“They let me structure it the way I wanted,” Schneider says. “They gave me the staff that I wanted. And they gave me a lot of elbow room.”
There is another reason that Schneider is pleased to have been associated with Bloomberg.
“It allowed me to … learn a hell of a lot about business along the way, and deal with people that know a lot more about it than I ever will,” Schneider admits. “To me, it was like having a post-graduate education for six years.”
It was Matt Winkler who launched Schneider’s career at Bloomberg, and Schneider has nothing but praise for the Editor-in-Chief of Bloomberg News.
“To my way of thinking, [he] is an extraordinary figure in the history of journalism, broadcast journalism or journalism in the country. He created something of a monumental size and scope out of nothing,” Schneider admits. “I have enormous respect and affection for Matt.”
These days, Schneider is spending more time absorbed in another of his passions–the Great Outdoors. He is also working on a book project (not about broadcasting). Additionally, Schneider is the voice for various freelance narrations.
“I’m at the stage of life right now where if somebody wants me, or needs for something, they know where to find me,” Schneider says.
For Schneider, after stops at all of the major networks, including news anchor on “Good Morning America,” his tenure at Bloomberg was not only a professional victory, it was personal.
“I kind of went back with the notion that I was going to enjoy this second act of my career. And I really did.”