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Editor’s note

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In connection with a proposed settlement before the Iranian Tehran Province Criminal Court of a proceeding against Reuters Bureau Chief Parisa Hafezi, Reuters has issued the following statement.

Reuters again expresses, as it has in prior statements and in evidence presented to the Court, its regret for the error made in the television script for our report distributed on February 18, 2012 about the Budekan Ninja Club.

The error was a product of mistakes by our producer in Tehran, who no longer works for Reuters. We have taken steps in adjusting our internal processes to avoid making such errors again.

Reuters also wishes again to make clear that Ms. Hafezi, who is the sole defendant in the proceedings before the Court, had no role in or responsibility for the production of this script or the accompanying video.

from Isaac Esipisu:

Ethiopia and Eritrea: An elusive peace on the cards?

By Aaron Maasho

Ethiopia and Eritrea are still at each others’ throats. The two neighbours fought hammer and tongs in sun-baked trenches during a two-year war over a decade ago, before a peace deal ended their World War I-style conflict in 2000. Furious veRed Sea, UNrbal battles, however, have continued to this day.

Yet, amid the blistering rhetoric and scares over a return to war, analysts say the feuding rivals are reluctant to lock horns once again. Neighbouring South Sudan and some Ethiopian politicians are working on plans to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

from Africa News blog:

Are African governments suppressing art?

By Cosmas Butunyi

The dust is finally settling on the storm that was kicked off in South Africa by a controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.

The country that boasts one of the most liberal constitutions in the world and the only one on the African continent with a constitutional provision that protects and defends the rights of  gays and lesbians , had   its values put up to  the test  after an artist    ruffled feathers by a painting that questioned the moral values  of the ruling African National Congress .

from Africa News blog:

Australia worse than Africa for mining? Yikes!: Clyde

By Clyde Russell
The idea that Australia is a more dangerous place for mining investment than Mali might seem strange to most observers, but that's exactly the view of the boss of the world's third-biggest gold producer.
Mark Cutifani, the chief executive officer of AngloGold Ashanti, said last week he was more concerned about government policies toward mining in Australia than about nationalism in Africa.
On the face of it, this is an extraordinary comment that has gone largely unreported by both the Australian and international media.
How can it possibly be that Australia, a stable Western democracy with rule of law, independent courts and a culture of vigorous debate, is a more risky place than countries like Mali, which had a military coup last month and is battling an insurgency by Tuareg separatists?
Of course, it may be that Cutifani, an Australian-born mining engineer who has headed the Johannesburg-based company since October 2007, was ramping up the rhetoric to make a point when he talked to reporters on March 27 in Perth, capital of the resource-rich state of Western Australia.
But this would appear to be at odds with his previous record of speaking sensibly about the gold-mining industry while remaining an advocate of the interests of his global company.
The point Cutifani was probably trying to drive home is that the debate in Australia over its vast mineral resources appears to have veered off-track and descended into political point-scoring.
"The politicians and we as industry leaders are missing each other," the Australian Associated Press quoted him as saying. "Somehow, we've got to land this discussion and stop the class warfare-type conversations and turn the conversations into constructive dialogue about the future of the country and the industry."
To be fair, Cutifani has also lobbied against proposals for a resource rent tax in South Africa and moves to raise taxes in other African countries where AngloGold operates, such as Ghana and Mali.
But for Australia, the background to his comments is an intensifying war of words between Wayne Swan, the treasurer in the Labor Party-led minority government, and mining magnates over the new Mineral Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) and the carbon tax.
Both these taxes are due to start on July 1 and have raised the ire of many industries and the opposition Liberal Party.

The MRRT will impose a 30 percent levy on so-called super profits of large coal and iron ore, and doesn't yet include other producers such as gold miners.
The carbon tax will impose a price of A$23 on the emissions of the top 500 polluters, to be phased in, while reducing income taxes for poorer households in order to offset the expected increase in energy costs.
The Labor Party, which has slumped in opinion polls partly over public disquiet over the new taxes and a broken promise not to introduce a carbon tax by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, appears to be following the tactic of stoking the politics of envy as a distraction method.
Since the financial crisis that sparked the global recession in 2008 it has been easy for politicians to attack the rich and blame untrammeled greed for the economic carnage.
In Australia, the target is billionaire mining barons and Swan attacked iron ore magnates Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest as well as coal developer Clive Palmer in an essay published last month.
Interestingly enough, Swan didn't attack BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, the two global miners that led initial opposition to a stiffer resource tax that was watered down after Gillard deposed former prime minister Kevin Rudd in a party-room coup.
Swan accused the billionaires of trying to use their wealth to "distort public policy," apparently without any sense of irony, given that he was using his position as the second-most powerful politician in Australia to do the same.
It seems to me that Australia would benefit from a more sensible debate on how to ensure the mineral wealth is developed in a way that rewards the owners of capital that take the risks of developing projects as well the overall economy and citizens in general.
Debate in Australia appears to be driven by short-term political cycles, with federal elections every three years leading politicians to focus more on spin than sound policies.
Is the MRRT the best design that could have been implemented?
Will it raise sufficient revenue without leading to less investment, and will it help ensure the long-term viability of mining?
Should the revenue it raises be used to fund a one percentage point cut in the company tax rate, as Labor proposes, or would it be better put toward building a sovereign wealth fund?
These are all valid points for debate, but aren't getting a hearing in Australia currently.
Instead, as AngloGold's Cutifani pointed out, there is an unedifying mud-slinging match that does little to enhance the reputations of either Swan or his targets.

The global century with Jack Welch and Stephen Adler

On Tuesday Editor-in-Chief of Reuters News Stephen J. Adler interviewed Jack Welch, CEO of Jack Welch, LLC at the 92nd Street Y. The topic of their conversation was “The Global Century.” To hear what they had to say please watch the video below.

Welch was named CEO of General Electric in 1981 and held the position for more than 20 years. During his tenure there the company’s market capitalization rose from $13 billion to $400 billion. In 2000, he was named “Manager of the Century” by Fortune magazine. In 2001, he wrote his number one New York Times and international best-selling autobiography, Jack: Straight from the Gut. Recently, he launched the Jack Welch Management Institute, a unique online MBA program.

Journalists of the year

Last night we honored our 2010 Journalists of the Year.  What a moving ceremony it was, and I am so proud of the achievements of our winners.

As I look back on 2010, my final full year as Reuters Editor-in-Chief, I’m struck by how journalists and news organizations have been challenged with a steady stream of high-impact, global stories. The 3,000 men and women of Reuters answered those challenges.

Reuters in 2010 and a look ahead to 2011

By David A. Schlesinger

Another year has sped by with more change and economic uncertainty throughout the global markets. From a journalist’s viewpoint, 2010 has been filled with some of the most dynamic and complex stories to cover — the euro zone debt crisis, the U.S. midterm elections, currency wars, heart-warming heroism such as the Chile miners rescue and heart-breaking tragedies like that of the Haiti earthquake.

As a news organization during these turbulent times, Reuters has invested aggressively in transforming our news priorities and coverage tactics to ensure we are meeting the needs of the 21st century professional audience. Our aim is to best understand your workflow — what news you use, when you use it and how we can package and present our stories to best suit your needs.

Our need to be in the midst of danger

Below is the keynote speech Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger delivered today to the International News Safety Institute

Death came screaming out of the sky on July 12, 2007.

Two Apache helicopter gunships operating more than 500 metres away from a group of men fired their 30 mm cannon and that was it.

How to report politics for an international audience

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This is the text of a talk I gave to a seminar hosted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford on October 22nd Challenges of reporting politics for an international audience I am not here to talk about what I don’t know so I will largely reflect on my work at Reuters, although I hope to offer insights that might apply to other news organisations that distribute across borders, in particular other international news service such as Dow Jones and Bloomberg, but perhaps also the Financial Times, the Economist, or even the BBC World Service We cover lots of themes at Reuters, including geo-politics and major world affairs such as nuclear proliferation, climate change or the rise of the BRIC states, but today I am focusing on our coverage of national politics. First – we need to abandon any hoary preconceptions about the Reuters news file being dully utilitarian, about us serving as an ‘agency of record’ and simply being a tip sheet for newspapers and broadcaster. We also need to abandon any lingering notion that we are the voice of Britain – Reuters is now the news brand of a multinational professional information firm majority owned by a Canadian family, headquartered in New York and listed on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges. Another notion – that we are the avid stenographers of the finance industry, handkerchiefing capitalism’s every sneeze and underwriting corporate folly by taking the self-serving platitudes of industry titans at face value? Well that’s another stereotype. What we aim to be is an agenda-setting news service for a global audience of professionals, including media and finance professionals, delivering content rich in analysis and insight, with multiple “sections” (to use newspaper speak), including a financial commentary service, direct to consumer websites, a video service akin to a financial YouTube, and lifestyle and entertainment coverage. Our development from the agency of record model is a response to the structural challenges posed to the news industry in last decade by disruptive technology, economic turmoil and emerging competitors. The challenge boils down to this: how do you capture and retain audiences and have a sustainable business model for doing so. It’s an adaption struggle faced by all “old” international news organisations that are in the business of covering national events for audiences in other countries. In light of that, how do we go about reporting national politics, and why? We can’t match the staff of national newspapers. We don’t have vast teams lapping up lobby gossip. Don’t have the 24hr television news magnet pulling politicians in to talk to us. We are no-vote media, so leaders don’t often leak to us. We don’t have a political agenda so government PR people prefer to hand out information to sympathetic media that will oblige with some partisan spin. Our stories don’t appear on newsstands, on mashed up dead trees, so we rarely get that “shout it to the rooftops” quality of great, screaming, above the fold newspaper scoops. And we operate in real time with all the perils that urgency brings to copy quality and news editing. Our stories have to travel, so jargon and local terminology needs to be decoded for an international audience. We have to be clear in our language, in explaining what parties stand for, and in explaining why a particular issue matters, or surprisingly doesn’t, in one or other country e.g. why do the French riot over pension reform, while in Britain voters glumly shrug when told they will have to work longer? Do these restrictions mean all we can offer is a dumbed down account, the lowest common denominator story, an account of national difference and idiosyncrasy that will delight the distant reader but leave them none the wiser about what is really taking place? Maybe that was how it was, but we can’t get away with that now. A couple of years ago I visited a currency trader based in Singapore who worked for a large Malaysian bank. He traded sterling and was typical of the kind of well-educated professional news consumer we need to serve well. I had expected to discuss Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and efforts to deal with global financial crisis. Instead we talked about how hard it was to get a mortgage in Britain, where people were buying or not buying houses and what voters thought of schools, hospitals and levels of crime. Why? He wanted a balanced view of factors driving voter behaviour. He needed something beyond economic data, opinion polls and tendentious reporting of special interest issues. It was also clear that if Reuters did not give him a real sense of the mood in Britain he knew perfectly well he could get it elsewhere. He could set up RSS feeds from newspapers, track blogs and Twitter feeds, and watch British television news on the internet. If he had the time and inclination he could scrape the web to get something of a view of Britain without us. So what do we do to give this customer, or any other outside the UK, a distinctive view of UK politics? Or any other set of national politics, for that matter? Here I am taking for granted some bedrock attributes. We still have to break news, work sources, jump on big stories and get the facts out there — all the obvious stuff that is the backbone of good journalism. Beyond that – what’s our formula – and by extension perhaps, the formula that other international news organisations are adopting. 1) We must be expert and detailed. We can no longer write down to people. We can’t condescend. We are dealing with audiences with high expectations of sophisticated, smart political coverage, who will challenge oversimplification and generalisation. We’ve had to raise our game globally on national political reporting. We need a bit of colour and flavour in stories but audiences also demand detail. Detail nails an issue down, illustrates a theme and drives a decision. Online and on screens there are no space constraints, so we can be more illuminating. There is a great appetite for explanatory, background and in-depth material. 2) We have to be predictive and selective. We must offer the ‘what next’ on a story. We need less of what has happened and more of ‘what might happen.’ Accordingly we have devised new formats that look at potential outcomes and assess their probability. It’s a real challenge to do this well, to analyse impartially and not speculate wildly. We must be selective, ignoring local fascinations and froth, the white noise of events like Question Time, the weekly parliamentary dingdong debate between the British prime minister and leader of the opposition. Instead we look at whether policy on an issue will change. We have to take issue and chew it. For example, our special report on how one big UK city will be hit by spending cuts illustrated the wider theme of austerity measures hitting Europe. Incidentally in the course of reporting that item in Birmingham our reporters broke news the city was considering asset sales to Middle East investors. City fathers backed away from the plan after we revealed it. 3) Stay neutral but stay engaged. Have perspective but don’t take sides. On the morning after the UK government announced its four-year programme of deep spending cuts the headline in the conservative Daily Telegraph was “Cuts leave middle class £10,000 worse off.”  By contrast the liberal Guardian newspaper’s headline was “Axe falls on the poor.” Our take was: “Britain slashes spending, raises retirement age. …unprecedented cost-cutting drive…that will test the strength of economy and of the govt.” For foreign audience I would contend this is informative, dispassionate and forward-looking. We need to convey the passion of the argument without partaking in it. For instance – what drives the Tea Party in the United States? Instead of fixating on their more quirky aspects we have looked at what has driven their emergence, in particular the structural economic challenges that mean many US jobs that disappeared in the recession will not come back. That has translated into anger. Then we asked: Can the Tea Party convert that anger into influence? And what will that influence do to policy-making, given the disconnect between the cries of voters for spending cuts and their cries for tax cuts. Both cries are dear to Republicans but few argue that you will make a dent in the worryingly large deficit if you do both. If that’s the formula then what practically do we distil from our chemistry? Does it deliver the distinctive coverage that meets the criteria of being worth paying for? The argument can’t often be proved by citing a single story. It’s rather the package of content that a reader signs up for, and Reuters offers far more than national political coverage. So it is perhaps best to offer a couple of small examples that illustrate a wider approach and leave you to decide if they help make the case. One contrast would be between our coverage of looming UK defence cuts and that in the national press. The conservative Daily Telegraph, notoriously the house journal of the national military elite, was serially leaked to by rival top brass at the Ministry of Defence who warned of devastation to their respective services if government cuts went ahead as planned. It was great journalism and full credit to the paper’s reporters. But was it hard for readers to get beyond the lobbying and military rivalries played out across the paper to concrete detail on what was likely to happen? This story mattered to our customers, because Britain is a big military player and a big defence spender; it had both geo-political impact and investor interest. We got the sources we needed at the MOD and kept playing it straight, reporting what we could confirm at each stage of the negotiations in what was a rapidly changing picture. We were pretty much on the money with spending on carriers, cuts to jets and delays to replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system – shares in defence contractors Babcock and BAE Systems fell. Another example: Brazil’s presidential election went to a second round because last minute voter concerns about the social views of lead candidate Dilma Rousseff deprived her of outright victory. Some news organisations led by describing her as a former Marxist guerrilla tripped up by her support for abortion. Reuters described Rousseff as “the hand-picked successor to President Lula who has pledged to continue policies that have made Brazil one of world’s hottest emerging markets.” The contrast is between the personal interest and the immediate versus the “so what” and the “what next.” Rousseff was duly elected in the second round as the importance of social issues to voters fell away. I have suggested that changes to how Reuters reports national politics for international audiences are an example of how news organisations can respond to technological, financial or competitive challenges. We don’t always hit the mark with our coverage but directionally we think we’ve got it right. I will leave it to you to decide what lessons can be drawn from our experience and applied elsewhere in the news industry.

This is the text of a talk I gave to a seminar hosted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford on October 22nd.

Challenges of reporting politics for an international audience

I am not here to talk about what I don’t know so I will largely reflect on my work at Reuters, although I hope to offer insights that might apply to other news organisations that distribute across borders, in particular other international news service such as Dow Jones and Bloomberg, but perhaps also the Financial Times, the Economist, or even the BBC World Service.

Less foreign news in UK papers – should we care?

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A newspaper seller organises British papers in his shop

A newspaper seller organises British papers in his shop

The UK’s Media Standards Trust asks if it matters that there is less foreign reporting being done by British reporters and printed in the British press. Yes, according to David Loyn, the BBC’s International Development correspondent and author of a foreword to an MST report entitled ‘Shrinking World’. Ignorance encourages insular values, aka prejudices, and the British voter will be discouraged from developing the understanding needed to cope in a fast-changing world, argues Loyn.

US journalism academics have long lamented that US newspapers can no longer afford the large networks of foreign correspondents they once deployed and have speculated on the cost to society of poor decision-making driven by the  ignorance of the electorate. The MST’s report tries to quantify the extent of the decline of foreign stories  in the UK print media (40 percent over three decades) but does not venture similar gloomy political analysis. Apart from Loyn’s concerns, the MST’s Martin Moore suggests just that extensive awareness of foreign issues will become the preserve of elites who read the likes of the Financial Times and the Economist, which have made a selling point of maintaining international coverage. Perhaps the difference between the US and Britain is the continued public service mission of the BBC that requires it to provide independent and impartial foreign reporting, which still has a large domestic audience on radio and television. There is no equivalent in the US, where mainstream television offers a selective and incomplete view of foreign news and NPR’s strong reporting has limited reach.

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