When Ben Richardson resigned from Bloomberg News on Monday, he became the third newsperson to quit since the company allegedly squashed an investigative report on big money and politics in China. China plays hardball – as Bloomberg found out in 2012, after it published an article on the staggering wealth accumulated by China’s political elite, and the Chinese government cut off subscriptions to the company’s services. Bloomberg has annual sales of $8.5 billion, and China figures prominently in its future plans. So maybe this gives China some potential leverage over news coverage – as Bloomberg’s Chairman Peter Grauer suggested last week when he said his editors “should have rethought” articles that “wander a little bit away” from the organization’s core business reporting. This is one slippery slope. Yes, the financial stakes are unusually large in China, but news organizations have always had to navigate between commercial needs and editorial integrity, at least in countries that pay lip service to a free press. The press is both a private business and a public trust, and the pressures from the former – to write a puff piece on car dealer, to stop pummeling the bank chairman – have always been relentless. That’s why there was once a “fire wall” between the two sides. But that has eroded as old-fashioned publishers have given way to corporate flacks interested only in profits. It’s easy to beat up on Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, but the deeper threat to press freedom is much more subtle than those guys.