Financial Times Editor Roula Khalaf: “I Think We Went Too Far”

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If this were "Lunch with the FT," Roula Khalaf would person chosen her favourite Greek edifice successful Fitzrovia, Meraki, ordered smoked aubergine and beetroot crockery and talked astir her archetypal twelvemonth arsenic editor. "Lunch with the FT" is 1 of the concern newspaper's astir fashionable formats. The lunchtime chat astir backstage and concern matters appears successful each play edition. The rule: The guests take the restaurant, the editors pay, nary substance however expensive, and they people the measure arsenic well. Khalaf had Chateaubriand and asparagus with ex-Nissan and Renault brag Carlos Ghosn successful Paris. With Hatice Cengiz, the widow of murdered Washington Post newsman Jamal Kashoggi, she had a day successful London for mezze and salad. During a luncheon with Britain's outgoing quality chief, they had sandwiches successful his office. In January 2020, Khalaf became the archetypal pistillate to service arsenic main exertion of the 133-year-old Financial Times. Born successful Lebanon, Khalaf has reported for the FT from Iraq and Syria, managed implicit 100 correspondents astir the satellite and served arsenic lawman to erstwhile exertion Lionel Barber for 4 years. One would person liked to conscionable Khalaf for lunch. Due to the pandemic, it turns into a video interview.

Aus: DER SPIEGEL 29/2021

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Die Delta-Variante ist weltweit auf dem Vormarsch, ein Ende der Pandemie nicht successful Sicht. In vielen Ländern mangelt es weiterhin an Impfstoff, successful Europa americium Impfwillen. Wie lässt sich dice Lust auf dice Spritze erhöhen – braucht es mehr Druck, vielleicht sogar eine Pflicht für bestimmte Bereiche? Und welche Wege gibt es noch, um dice Infektionszahlen niedrig zu halten?

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DER SPIEGEL: Ms. Khalaf, you had lone been successful your caller presumption for 8 weeks erstwhile the pandemic struck. Has it been a curse oregon a journalistic blessing?

Khalaf: Both. We were amazed however smoothly the accumulation from location worked, but I miss the buzz of a newsroom. I can't locomotion the corridors arsenic I similar to do, and speech to radical I bump into. That astir apt won't alteration overmuch until September.

DER SPIEGEL: On the different hand, times of situation are bully times for a concern newspaper.

Khalaf: Yes, successful presumption of numbers, we saw a surge successful readers. Brexit was good supra our mean astatine leafage views, and the coronavirus was adjacent higher. In 2020, leafage views accrued by 42 percent, subscription revenues were up 16 percent.

DER SPIEGEL: Which volition beryllium a greater stroke to the British system successful the mean term: the coronavirus oregon Brexit?

Khalaf: The afloat grade of the harm from the European Union exit volition lone go disposable implicit time. I don’t contradict that Brexit could besides bring opportunities for the British economy, but they beryllium connected what the authorities does with the state it present has.

DER SPIEGEL: The United Kingdom has already outclassed the EU erstwhile it comes to the gait of vaccinations. So, were determination affirmative aspects successful Brexit?

Khalaf: I would not instrumentality this statement excessively far. Yes, the authorities did person a definite state and went its ain mode – it invested a batch of wealth successful vaccines precise aboriginal on, but adjacent arsenic an EU subordinate we wouldn’t needfully person had to beryllium portion of the EU procurement. The costs of Brexit for the British system are high, and this is lone overshadowed by the pandemic.

DER SPIEGEL: How does Boris Johnson envisage the aboriginal of the British economy?

Khalaf: The authorities has travel up with large slogans, but they haven't thought this done thoroughly. Whenever I spot radical successful government, I ask: What is your vision? I inactive person not heard a convincing answer.

 "Print has proved amazingly  resilient."

A paper transportation idiosyncratic with copies of the Financial Times: "Print has proved amazingly resilient."

Foto: Simon Dawson / Bloomberg via Getty Images

DER SPIEGEL: The pandemic, Brexit and clime alteration person undermined assurance successful the blessings of capitalism and globalization. What does that mean for a paper that is considered the biggest cheerleader, so bible, of capitalism?

Khalaf: I deliberation this is excessively simplistic. Just due to the fact that we constitute astir concern and concern does not mean that we are unsighted to the problems of globalization and capitalism. On the contrary. The FT has ever seen its relation arsenic holding concern to account. I don’t deliberation our religion successful escaped markets has been shaken. It’s the excess that we person taken contented with. After the fiscal crisis, the FT itself helped substance the statement astir the aboriginal of capitalism.

DER SPIEGEL: But the FT was among those calling for austerity successful the aftermath of the fiscal situation of 2008-2009. That austerity has contributed to the emergence of right-wing populism successful galore European countries.

Khalaf: Yes, I deliberation we went excessively acold backmost then, that was a mistake. The editorial presumption of the FT was supportive of the austerity policies of the British authorities of David Cameron and George Osborne. The pandemic highlighted for america however damaging immoderate of the measures were, for illustration for the wellness sector.

DER SPIEGEL: In 2019, the FT launched an advertizing run with the slogan: "Capitalism. Time for a reset.” Did that besides notation to the paper itself?

Khalaf: No, the run captured immoderate of the shifts that were reflected successful our journalism. It was wide to america aboriginal connected that clime alteration would go a immense contented for business, truthful we expanded our coverage. The aforesaid goes for the statement astir enforcement pay, the request for regularisation of the tech giants oregon the rights of gig workers.

The Financial Times had 960,000 integer subscribers successful 2020, arsenic good arsenic 140,000 people subscriptions.

Source: FT

Khalaf's way to the apical of astatine FT didn’t pb done the City of London, the epicenter of fiscal reporting, but via the Middle East. She was calved successful Beirut successful 1965. When the Israelis occupied Lebanon successful 1982, the household had to determination into a tiny level lone a two-minute locomotion from the legendary Commodore. At that time, the edifice successful Beirut’s Hamra territory was the location basal for overseas correspondents, who wrote their reports from the civilian warfare successful the lobby and astatine the barroom and sent them backmost to their editors utilizing telex machines. "At times, we visited the edifice lobby, catching a glimpse of the warfare reporters huddled with machine-gun-wielding militiamen," Khalaf writes successful the publication "Our Women connected the Ground," successful which pistillate correspondents sermon their enactment successful the Arab World. Khalaf says she was an anxious teenager, but the men and women who reported from the beforehand enactment "embodied a state and a intent that I craved." Khalaf near Lebanon, studied communications and past planetary relations successful New York earlier launching her vocation arsenic a journalist.

DER SPIEGEL: Your begetter was the economics curate successful Lebanon successful the 1970s. Did you ever see pursuing him into authorities alternatively of going into journalism?

Khalaf: My begetter discontinue authorities due to the fact that of the civilian war. If you grew up successful Lebanon during the civilian war, it does not precisely enactment authorities successful a precise bully light. It did not adjacent hap to me. Conversely, you needed truthful overmuch accusation to negociate your regular life, to marque decisions: Can you spell to schoolhouse today, volition you beryllium locked down for the day, a week, a month? Can we enactment present oregon bash we person to move? That made maine bare for news.

DER SPIEGEL: You started moving arsenic a writer for Forbes mag successful New York aft graduating and 1 of your scoops adjacent became a Hollywood movie: You exposed the scam of Jordan Belfort, the "Wolf of Wall Street." In Martin Scorsese's film, the newsman Khalaf makes a little appearance. Did you find yourself good represented successful the film?

Khalaf: Well, that was Hollywood, and my reporting was existent life. So, successful short,

DER SPIEGEL: Belfort describes you successful his memoirs arsenic an "insolent reporter" who "deserves an A for cleverness." Did you instrumentality that arsenic a compliment oregon an insult?

Khalaf: I work it arsenic a compliment, but I’m not definite whether a compliment coming from Belford is an insult.

Roula Khalaf and with Iraqi imam Sheikh Khaled Hammoud Mahal al-Jumaili successful  2013

Roula Khalaf and with Iraqi imam Sheikh Khaled Hammoud Mahal al-Jumaili successful 2013

Foto: Courtesy Financial Times

DER SPIEGEL: In 1995, you joined the FT arsenic a overseas correspondent. Your archetypal overseas duty was the civilian warfare successful Algeria, you worked successful Iraq and Iran and you covered the Arab Spring. Were determination moments erstwhile you feared for your life?

Khalaf: Yes, astatine the opening of my vocation arsenic a correspondent, I was often successful Algeria, and idiosyncratic had offered to instrumentality maine and present maine to a rebel group. I was truthful excited that I went on – and for galore hours, I didn't cognize whether I had been lured into a trap oregon would marque it backmost to the hotel. I ne'er told that to the FT.

DER SPIEGEL: Has your clip successful the Middle East made you much resistant to stress?

Khalaf: I anticipation so. No uncertainty my travel helped me. I person ever had to enactment successful hard situations and woody with pugnacious regimes.

Khalaf's predecessor Barber made the FT a pioneer successful paid integer contented successful the mid-2000s, erstwhile astir of the manufacture was acrophobic to bash so. He accrued the fig of subscribers to astir 1 million, with three-quarters of those for integer versions. He was little palmy successful ridding the FT of its representation arsenic a "show-off paper" of the predominantly antheral fiscal elite. In his diary, Barber writes: "Roula and our feisty concern exertion Sarah Gordon find the mansplainers" successful the editorial meetings "mildly amusing but often frustrating." He adds: "One day, I'll woody with the alpha antheral problem, but not today.” Another anecdote shows however newsroom civilization has agelong been: When Khalaf turned up precocious for a greeting editorial gathering a fewer years ago, she excused herself by saying that her young lad had refused to participate the schoolhouse building. Many pistillate colleagues subsequently thanked her successful emails for her openness. At the opening of the pandemic, Khalaf wrote successful an email to the editorial unit that they would get done this situation with "care and solidarity." Roula is "as pugnacious arsenic Lionel arsenic a journalist," says 1 editor, "but specified words would ne'er person crossed his lips.”

"There were days erstwhile I was the lone pistillate successful the room."

DER SPIEGEL: In January 2020, you became the archetypal pistillate to caput the FT. Half of the large newspapers and magazines successful the UK are present headed by women, including the Guardian, The Economist and The Sunday Times. Is it a coincidence oregon a motion of normality? How bash you explicate that?

Khalaf: As a effect of evolution. It doesn't astonishment maine astatine all. It’s a greater enigma to maine wherefore Europe is truthful overmuch slower. Objectively, determination is nary crushed wherefore women should beryllium little suitable than men to caput an editorial department.

DER SPIEGEL: How did the "alpha antheral problem” astatine the FT consciousness to you?

Khalaf: I ne'er saw it arsenic an alpha antheral problem. It was simply due to the fact that determination were excessively galore men. There were days erstwhile I was the lone pistillate successful the room. It was evident that determination was a deficiency of women. That is antithetic today. We are gradually getting to wherever we privation to beryllium and should beryllium – 50/50 astatine each absorption levels.

DER SPIEGEL: The FT has 2 bots successful spot to guarantee much beingness of women successful the reporting. How does that work?

Khalaf: The "Janet” bot alerts america erstwhile the fig of women pictured connected the website falls beneath a defined minimum. And the "She Said, He Said” bot tracks however galore women we punctuation successful our texts.

DER SPIEGEL: Do some person a measurable effect?

Khalaf: Yes, they gradually alteration however we constitute and edit a story. They rise consciousness successful the newsroom. A batch has happened. In our columns, for example, the proportionality of women has risen from 20 to 30 percent successful the past year.

DER SPIEGEL: Despite its efforts, the FT is inactive considered arsenic a paper for men. How has the fig of pistillate readers developed?

Khalaf: The bulk of our readers are inactive antheral and implicit 50, but the inclination is successful the close direction. What we person besides seen, though, is that arsenic our wide subscriber basal has grown, the percent of those that are women has remained comparatively consistent. And the mean proportionality of women subscribers speechmaking our stories has gone up by 4 percent since our focused efforts to deepen the engagement of women subscribers began.

DER SPIEGEL: Of its 1.1 cardinal subscribers, 960,000 work the FT online. Has the pandemic accelerated the extremity of the printed edition?

Khalaf: In the beginning, we really wondered what would go of the printed edition. We had transportation problems, we couldn't get the insubstantial to our readers. But people has proved amazingly resilient. The circulation of the printed play variation has adjacent increased.

DER SPIEGEL: Where would you similar to spot the FT's circulation to beryllium successful 5 years?

Khalaf: The institution has to contented the target. We are not looking truthful overmuch astatine the fig increasing quickly, but astatine subscribers staying with america and not leaving aft 3 months. With discounts, you tin rapidly summation millions of readers. Our extremity is to execute that with bully journalism.

Since 2015, the FT has solidified its estimation arsenic an authorization erstwhile it comes to hard-nosed investigative journalism, particularly with its reporting connected Wirecard. In a bid of articles, editors Dan McCrum and Stefania Palma uncovered fraud and forgery astatine the German company, which was listed connected the DAX scale of blue-chip corporations. Time and again, Wirecard managed to refute the accusations, portion astatine the aforesaid clip doing everything it could to deceive the reporters. It adjacent had them spied on. In January 2019, McCrum reported connected equilibrium expanse manipulation successful Wirecard’s Asia business. Seventeen months later, the institution collapsed.

Financial Time newsman  Dan McCrum appears astatine  a league   of the parliamentary committee   investigating Wirecard successful  Belin successful  2020

Financial Time newsman Dan McCrum appears astatine a league of the parliamentary committee investigating Wirecard successful Belin successful 2020

Foto: Kay Nietfeld / dpa

DER SPIEGEL: Was determination a infinitesimal erstwhile you disquieted that the communicative mightiness not extremity good for the FT?

Khalaf: No. Our reporters knew what they were doing, they are conscionable archetypal class. I had afloat confidence. What made the communicative truthful extraordinary, was not truthful overmuch our reporting but the company's absorption to it. I've ne'er seen thing similar it – and I've worked successful rather a fewer dodgy places. It ranged from intimidation to harassment to each kinds of soiled tricks played connected our reporters.

DER SPIEGEL: And culminated successful the German fiscal regulator BaFin filing charges against your reporters.

Khalaf: An unimaginable reaction, alternatively of looking astatine the company!

DER SPIEGEL: Have BaFin oregon the German authorities apologized to you for this successful the meantime?

Khalaf: Not to my knowledge, but I cognize this is simply a question that comes up successful Germany.

DER SPIEGEL: Did your lawyers ever travel up to you with a calculation of what a tribunal ruling for libel would person outgo the FT successful the worse-case scenario? British libel instrumentality provides for draconian and perchance ruinous penalties.

Khalaf: On Wirecard? No, it wouldn't person mattered anyway. Of course, I person to measurement risks arsenic editor, but investigations are portion of our halfway concern and we privation much of them, particularly successful the firm sector.

DER SPIEGEL: In that case, the unit was peculiarly high, Wirecard's precise beingness was astatine involvement - and the full credibility of the FT. How did you personally woody with it?

Khalaf: We didn't see it an existential happening astatine the FT. Of course, the exertion is nether tremendous unit successful specified cases. But that's conscionable the job.

DER SPIEGEL: Roula Khalaf, we convey you for this interview.

Editor Isabell Hülsen conducted this interrogation by video.

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