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Q & A with FT Editor Andrew Gowers. | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Q & A with FT Editor Andrew Gowers.

Q & A with FT Editor Andrew Gowers.

Q & A with FT Editor Andrew Gowers.

Q: How did the Financial Times (FT) transform itself , from a national daily, into an international newspaper?

A: This shift occurred almost three decades ago, in 1979, to be precise, and it took a big managerial decision, as markets were going global this meant that business journalism needed to become international as well. This created new commercial opportunities for the newspaper but also meant the Financial Times had to strike a balance between its UK market and abroad.

Q: How was that made possible?

A: The Financial Times is currently published in four editions for the UK , the US , Europe , and Asia .

Q: As a business publication, how would you describe FT’s coverage of other areas, such as politics and culture?

A: Our readers are decision makers in the business world. It is therefore important for us to inform them of the latest market news, as well as political, economic and social developments. What we don”t do however is cover celebrity news and issues that don’t effect markets and decisions.

Q: FT is distinguished by its specialist reporters who cover different aspects of the world of business. How is this achieved?

A: As a basic rule, while general interest newspaper will employ one reporter to cover a given subject, the Financial Times will have an entire department doing so. For example, instead of having one correspondent assigned to economic matters, FT has an entire department ! The same applies to the Industry sector which includes Motor, Defense, and Aerospace, among others. FT also has a Media and Communications Department where two journalists cover the latest media developments, a third reports on telecommunication and a fourth on all other issues in the field of technology. We also try to concentrate our reporters in areas that will generate news by.

Q: Can you please elaborate on this last point?

A: Let us take the motor industry as an example. As the industry is in terminal decline across the UK , our journalist operates on a global basis, one day from Detroit and another from Tokyo . You have to go global if you are to cope with today”s industry.

Q: Do you hire specialized reporters or do you train them to become leaders in their field?

A: First and foremost, the Financial Times employs excellent journalists. We also teach them the basics of how to write news stories, find sources, and treating them fairly, our journalists do not spend more than three or four years in the same position. It’s important that no one does his or her job for too long. Our motor industry reporter, for example, could develop into a bureau chief and a correspondent in Washington D.C can move to London to become a defense reporter. Moving and assuming a variety of roles builds contacts and experience and encourages an analytical mind.

Q: Would you say FT journalists are references in their respective specialties?

A: We always push our journalists to go indepth. A major part of the success of FT depends on readers believing what they read in our paper. If one finds doubtful information about his sector, they will no longer trust us. It is crucial that journalists write authoritatively within their sector.

Q: How many reporters does FT employ?

A: 530,400 of them based in the UK.

Q: How many are based in the Middle East ?

A: FT has a correspondent in Cairo , a stringer in Beirut and another in Baghdad . Roula Khalaf our Middle East Editor is based in London .

Q: Can you tell us more about the launch of “FT Deutschland” in 2000?

A: This is the German edition of our newspaper, with its own editorial team. Our content now reaches a wider audience and so far it has been a success. We currently sell 100000 copies per day.

Q: Do you have future plans for an Arabic version?

A: No! Germany is one big market. It is impossible to do the same for the Arab world for various political and distribution reasons.

Q: What about the business publications and satellite television channels who have already done so, for examples “Forbes” in Arabic and “CNBC Arabiya” for example?

A: The question to ask is any of these organizations making a profit? The answer is no.

Q: What about an edition in an Asian language?

A: FT is part of a family of European publications that share ideas and content.

Q: How would you describe your relations with “The Economist” magazine when you are both part of the same media conglomerate?

A: We are friendly competitors. Occasionally, we use each other’s staff. We compete for readers and advertisement revenue.

Q: How would you best describe being a multi-channel brand?

A: I believe this is the key for success in the future. Media organizations need to transform themselves into a network with material in different formats, be in print or online, and offer a service the reader will pay for and advertiser buy into.

Q: FT has invested large sums of money in your official website. Has it generated the profit you expected?

A: We are still evolving so it’s impossible to say if we have made a profit from our website. The newspaper as a whole has been profitable since the last quarter of 2002. Advertising revenue is on the rise and subscriptions are also increasing.

Q: Have you at least made back the amount you’ve invested?

A: We lost heavily during the dotcom boom when everyone was marketing their website. Things are different now; we are making a profit.

Q: Was the “workflow” system you have adopted as expensive as some reports allege?

A: Let me begin by saying that before implementing the new system, we were reliant on outdated technology. We ask ourselves would be the best of course of action as we were about to become a multi-channel brand. We chose a system that allows the newspaper to be published online and in print simultaneously.

Q: There has bee a lot of talk about a financial crisis at the Financial Times. Is the publication up for sale?

A: We’ve faced financial problems in the past few years, as did most business publications. Currently, advertising revenue is on the rise and so are circulation figures. As for selling the newspaper, the answer is no; we’re happy with our current owners.

Q: How do keep yourself updated with the latest news and events?

A: I read whatever is available. I listen to the radio on my way to the office and I skim read a selection of newspaper at my desk every morning such as the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, some local English newspapers, and occasionally, German and French papers. As an editor, I’ve learned to skim read.

Q: How do you do that?

A: I scan the pages of a newspaper and read the headlines. When I see a story that isn’t featured in FT, I raise the issue in the daily editorial meeting.

Q: What is your daily schedule?

A: I arrive at the office around 8am . I have a breakfast meeting at our headquarters or sometimes away from the office. At 10:30 am , I meet the editors of all sections of the paper and discuss content issues. I usually have a business lunch and then at 5pm , I chair a meeting to decide what will be front page news.

Q: With your experience, you must know a lot about the world of business. What will you open when you retire?

A: Opening a business? (Laughs) I am not contemplating retirement at this stage so I can’t answer.

Q: Not even a business consultancy?

A: Well for now I am really enjoying what I am currently doing..