Lionel Barber: Reporters' work must be checked

Financial Times editor Lionel Barber has told Press Gazette his paper’s new ‘two-touch’ journalism system will not mean reporters having to sub-edit their own stories.

Barber briefed staff yesterday about the FT‘s new “web-ready workflow” – prompting reports that the new system would lead to reporters subbing their own stories.

But Barber told Press Gazette today: “That’s just not true.”

He said reporters will write stories in a “web channel”, adding hyperlinks and metadata, with news editors suggesting headlines. But he added that reporters’ work would – and should – always be checked.

“The reporter will write, it will be worked on a by a news editor, then go to subs,” he said.

“We’re not looking at four pairs of hands, but we’re not stopping the revise function. I really want to get away from the idea that we’re asking reporters to sub their own stories. That’s just not true.

“We know at the FT – I can’t speak for others – we know accuracy, and quality, is our most valuable commodity. We’re not going to compromise that. In fact, we think the changes we’re introducing will actually increase quality.

“You can’t maintain quality if you’re asking the reporters to sub their own copy. You have to have a revise function.

“I have been a journalist for 30 years, a reporter for 20 years. I know that occasionally we make mistakes, we do spell things wrong. That’s why we need a revise function.

“At the FT we do try to get it right first time. The quality of the copy is pretty good – but it’s not going to be perfect.”

Barber said writing for websites was “a different genre” to print reporting.

“Let’s put this in a broader context,” he said. “What we want to do is step up the output on FT.com, and also introduce important changes in working practices.

“We want reporters adding meta data, hyperlinks, making our content richer for the website.

“Website journalism, as you know, is a different genre to print journalism. It has to be much more than an expression of the paper.

“Our reporters are already working as multimedia journalists; we want them to make online content richer.”

He added that the new workflow system would make full use of the FT’s £12m editorial production system.

Earlier this year, The FT announced it was cutting 80 staff – including 20 journalists – in a cost-cutting drive, as well as slightly reducing pagination.

It has also frozen salaries of all those earning more than £30,000.

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