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Read this: BONUS James Harding, Tortoise Media

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BONUS James Harding, Tortoise Media…



BBC sounds music Radio podcasts origin and this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 for those you listening on the media Show podcast I'm here with James Harding form editor the times for the boss of state director of BBC news and current affairs and now the founder and editor of tortoises slow new adventure which we talked about on the live show.

I'm just talking about your career because you have had quite a career in the world journeys in which student journalism your routing.

No it wasnae.

I was really lucky.

I tripped into Turners almost literally I met someone who said are you should apply for a job and the first job I applied for was at the ft the Financial Times and I very nearly totally messed it up.

I I I had this thing and then I had to go to an interview with the editor at 9:30 and then that's slightly too casual way showed up at 9:27.

Blackfriars Bridge looked up and realised I was in front of The Express and I wasn't from Holyhead to your door and I feel know and I remember waving down am career cyclist and saying where's the where's the ft and he's only got the wrong Bridge make you've got the wrong Bridge and I remember running so late summer day running along the Thames any of the ft on Southwark Bridge and then going into the interview with the Great Richard lampert amazing editor and you know that thing where you're not sweating when you sit down but five minutes yeah, you're sweating and it just got worse and worse so I think you just took pity on me.

You just thought I was so nervous that you were just going to give me a chance because I was so very nervous at my first job was deputy on nibs European MIBs using preschools in using bleach underestimated skill because what happened.

On a paper is that when you come in the morning you got nothing and you've got pages to feel if you're the ft.

You've got an enormous network of correspondence.

So you hit the phones and there's loads of the day you hit the phone and you would commission lots of stories and then across as the day went on things actually happened and the stories that were page Leeds or front page stories gradually get bombed down and all that's left over nips and so you have these mighty correspondence that my job would be at 5 to course I know you filed 960 perfectly crafted words Wigan hewes 120 of them know it was it was a job in journalism diplomacy.

I think about that because I think these days that we all wonder about.

What would we study now for you had a chance to go and study again.

You know this feeling that you know you're so far away from your education.

I have to strengthen our that.

I would love to go to study engineering.

I wonder how things work and I'll be so terrible about it that I'd be out looking for a job freelancing with him six months because tabloids newspapers more broadly.

I'm not the force that they once were in the land is it getting harder for people protecting people from poorer backgrounds to get into this profession.

Do you think I think it's really mixed I think it's always been really hard.

I think there was a system that made sense to people 30 years ago because you had a big regional press and act gave you access and there was an understanding you started in a local news room and if you broke stories your break into a bigger paper or broadcaster that sort of changing a lot but the fact is that there are lots of startups new media Ventures there are giving that kind of chance.

So you know what we've done at tortoise is go out and actually go to college is go to go to.

Jobs in schools, but also places where people didn't know that they wanted to be traced if you like and say come and give it a try and so I think there are chances there now and if anything in terms of the point about background if anything with much more alert now to the fact that if you want to tell stories that speak to people you need to make sure that you're involved in the conversations that having and so that means you really need to have a much wider reach so I actually thinking that since to understand has changed enormously and unrecognised me in the last particular last 10 years in particular the effect that technology has lowered barriers to entry for lots of people say actually in affect anyone with a smartphone can be a publisher which is a long way from the F2 that you joined in the early 90s.

I mean there are the Notorious notorious names at the have to the time people that Robert Peston Roland Rudd will Lewis was very high minded.

I think of this new Cloisters intellect.

Did you have a feeling you are part of a College of great Talent there was some very amazing group of journalists.

I mean the I worked with with Robert Peston when he was the political editor and your Robert is one of the best story letters that I've ever seen at work and one of the reasons for that.

I want things you learn is it's not just about having a great collection of contacts and sources with Robert had and has resort about thinking about the way in which they going to see the world.

It's really subtle thing when you watch a really brilliant journalist at work is understanding that their job is not just trying to get someone to say something often.

It's actually trying to understand the choices they face and think through the Likely choice still make and it gets you to the spot so it's much more of a study of humans.

It's a study of the way people work and say yes, there was a bit there were grapefruit there.

There was also.

By the way, I think a really interesting Ethos which was an accent remains was how we going to understand the world that is changing but also how we going to uncover.

What's really going on a tortoise is looking at and you split subjects and Tortoise acorn these five Giants to to paraphrase William Beveridge which you think I'm more important as wave on saying the bigger picture than breaking news to tell us about this Nige 50.

What happens if you say you say a lot a lot of news conferences to is it everyday people coming on so right? What's the top story and often the top story of the thing that happened today and the most recent yeah, and it's all it's the thing in the diary right.

So Theresa May is going to Brussels and I kept on thinking particularly in the last may be below 5 years, but it grew on me.

There's this idea that we keep on covering.

What's happening today and yet missing the stories that are driving big change its overthinking.

You got is there are five big drivers that are pretty much touching everything and everyone lives in the 21st Century technology finance identity natural resources and longevity those 5 things take any one of them and you can look anywhere and see it happening.

So you know we used to live with an understanding that there would be a shopping centre or a department store that was for many of us a part of our lives, but technology is ripping up the economics of the department store is a week.

We used to think that you will go to school get a job retire longevity than the expert the fact that we can live you know I might well expect to live to knocking on 100 changes the way in which we would think about the houses are schools hospitals even the way which we have our families of course so these these things seem to me to be in our lives and that someone you can trace the store we can trace the news and miss the story that's the thing to worry I want to I want honest.

And how your own Cree LED you to this helps to use technology will change the Ledger to this analysis analysis of the news industry.

Am Legend has it that you met Rupert Murdoch while you were Media determine interesting jobs that have the Financial Times did that famous meeting happen? What was that? What was it about if it did happen and did you have an inkling back there? And I'm fascinated in this personal reasons did you have an inkling that it was a start of a relationship that will change your life forever.

No not at all.

I mean I did what everyone does witches.

How was the media edge of the ft Rupert Murdoch you know was a unit of inventory and so I put in for an interview and and Yaya with the office mate viewed him in London in London this was here and the truth about media people is that they generally really quite chatty and so if you call a beloften answer and they've often got things.

They want to know and sometimes you actually know them right because you're speaking the people that for whatever reason they can't.

Actually when I think that about why I'm hit her why I started something new juice.

It was a totally different moment that started that which was I was walking through The Newsroom of the times and then home use editor of Michael Martin Baron stop me and said Andrew Norfolk has a story wants to do about child sex grooming in Rotherham and Rochdale and he described the story what was going on and I say I'm ever saying to Martin that can't be right that there's no way at the beginning of the 21st century.

That's going on and Andrew came down.

We started talking about it and I think it took us about 13 months.

It was something like that.

Just over a year from the first conversation to get anything in print.

I remember having conversations with Andrew when he'd been sitting in a court for the better part of three months we got nothing in the paper because the

Is collapsed I remember going to see him at one stage you know it's a really really deeply distressing story you remember the story about gangs of people travelling the other girls and and and it later than that review with the discovery there were more than 1400 goals in one City alone, Wetherspoon the case and I just look back and found myself thinking about the times that I found the journalism.

I've done most rewarding an important and everything I realised was that every single case whether it was looking at adoption or looking at stoning in Iran or tax avoidance or trying to create a better system for cyclists or trying to open up the family courts every single thing that you've ever done.

That's better campaign or they're too serious Peter investigation just took a lot longer than we ever expected and so I look back at that conversation and think that's the moment I started thinking.

How do you do news differently?

So you gave yourself the time to try and find out what's going on because I love to know where were you when you found out you were going to be added to the times for the 37 so I was at I do remember where I was doing it wasn't if you are I was.

I actually being I'm only posting this so self-serving so I can't really say it but I was I was at school from of the Yeti and set up his program using years ago and it was a bit later connected journalists with school in South London Eye much.

Will give a plug for its cover Harris Academy in Bermondsey it's awesome and I just come out of it my got a telephone call and remember walking along the River Rupert no wasn't it was from one of people work through but I was one of those wonderful calls with said.

Oh, yeah, it's you.

We're going to announce in 6 weeks time keep it yourself and strange sense and it is an amazing job.

I do think that did you money I loved it and I love the people I really cared about what you what you did and what you

Can do anyone who works in The Newsroom and I felt like here at the BBC anyone who works in Newsroom has this incredible thing which you can easily underestimate which of the access to the microphone and that sense of what you going to do with it? What are you going to talk about what you can? Do? You know try and think about what you going to trump from people think about us an amazing, but being years of a newspaper is and tough and time hearing a very very demanding managing down managing up leading a team commercial tasks and you had the way I let you describe it but you just let the Times through the phone hacking coverage and Leveson Enquiry to that take a huge promotional told a new person who was that tough exhausting what is returning to sort of kind of former editors therapy as I thought actually amazing thing there was that they're they're sometimes way things are complicated.

And all well that you work in connect the more complicated in that case actually it seemed clear which was that you had a job to do which was reported as you saw it and I remember coming in at one day and just saying in conference look let's be totally clear.

This is our job.

We've got a report it as we see how we got a report it out like any other story and actually I thought the thing of reflected incredibly well on The Newsroom of the times and the values of the times was that's what the paper.

Did you know that's what journalist in the paper did and actually when you get on and do that it makes things in make things clearer and simpler so yeah, there's obviously a strain and as you know very well.

You know there's that there were people have different views a different with you and they'll differ with you quite forcefully but but yes I look back and a look at the universe character of the Paypal account and Newsroom and think what a great.

English courses at the BBC as well you have to find that you are in the news as well as reporting news, then.

I want to ask you very briefly about BBC and also about them social media which is really change ends when the way that I think you think justifies existence of tortoise and can make Twitter successful, should I do that finish off of my that you still in touch with them? Are you even when were you last when you last see him not in touch with BBC management.

Did you have any trepidation about getting a job with BBC management people say as incredibly tough you have all this authority but none of the capacity to make decisions to make it happened that that's right.

Someone said to me that great thing to Clinton it said about the US administration that there are thousands of people believe you that I don't they look into the US administration been like a cemetery that there are thousands of people believe you but you're not sure if anyone's listening as you know what I thought you're not I come out of the X obviously that was you know I loved it and I was really sad to go and yet at the same time suddenly this.

Opportunity image to come the BBC I went through the interviews and and and joined and use only look up and you think my god.

I'm actually working in the greatest news organisation in the world with a network of Correspondents languages the world service local radio and your capacity to understand what's happening and you know by that stage as a man in my mid 40s to learn a totally new set of skills around television and radio in I thought I couldn't believe how lucky I was and and weirdly the thing that I've been warned which was you know don't go into senior management of a BBC it's a snake pit everyone of you know everyone's out for each other couldn't have been less true.

I mean we had a team with came in you know Tony Hall and recruited.

You know this group of people and Bulford rerun finance James Purnell doing Uno strategy Dani Cohn

I'm doing TV then followed by Charlotte Moore you know Helen who is my predecessor Helen Bowden was running radio and we got in there and obviously the organisation was understandably traumatised by what had happened with Savile we had a government that was wearing what it was or wasn't going to do for the licence fee and the scope of the BBC in the charter and equine I sitting it now in the BBC studio cuz I spent 5 years being basically pulled into rooms like these to defend the BBC and you can never do it all now going to do it was amazing is amazingly dreams come out you know you sort of restored a running speed.

Look at it creatively look at it editorially and you know it's an even when it deals with things that are deep cultural organisational problems even when it seems like we've got something profound that we got to get right on Pay actually what he does and what that team people do I can have save this now because

I want them what that thing people say go out and set about fixing it and it's complicated and it takes longer than you want, but it's not as though they Duckett quite the opposite actually step into it and sort it out a couple of questions.

What are the things that made imagine being character beauty news and current affairs infinitely tougher than say 20 years ago is social media when any one of the editorial decisions which will ultimately responsible for go viral for Boundary you spoke about Sloan use as a regional setting up Tortoise and outs of philosophy developed for awhile.

Do you think this social media and the impulse to go viral is distorting the editorial priorities of a generation young journalists that they are making bad decisions because they'd rather be read by lots of people and that priority prioritising over getting to the truth of things and Adidas been too much time with an echo chamber.

The two different things are on their knees.

Are we trying to be more thrilling all.

To get hurt and the other one is always singing to the choir writing are two different things so I think the second is a really big and profound problem which is in a competition for a tension this sense that the media has that if you if you speak to like-minded people are more likely to listen and therefore we have you know you know you love police's phrase this filter bubble the ririri confirmation of all producers are reviews that's a really profound issuing and it's not just by the way news that you look at those Maps that show what kind of TV shows you know red states in America and blue States of America like it's it's a really profound doing the the question of shrillness actually I'm slightly optimistic about this.

I think the fact that there's just so much noise out there means that more and more people valued good and trustworthy and there's a there's a respect now and during this can smell it for the work.

That's good and worth doing you know.

Your I'll give you an example and this is a slight plug but hey you know we were we recruited Chris Cook from BBC Newsnight and what was amazing in the 24-hour sand to use join.

This is the number of people who really excited about Chris joining because they can see he's a seriously serious minded journalist who does the work is fantastic explaining things that's the thing I think about Chris Cook is that he's got the killer graph The Killers.

Who knows how to combine internet with telling Amsterdam usual this is podcast what's your advice to them about how to thrive in the world of Media I think we thought a bit about this because we were trying to work out.

What are the qualities that we look for women looking for people and we reckon they are to be curious being generous being.

And being morally serious and it's impossible to say IV without sounding po-faced and worthy but there's that mix isn't it? You were all of us know that one of his we love working and use rooms are people are funny and a Reverend and naughty and you know basically say outrageous things and give you a pinions you can't believe that route if it works.

They are serious about the story but not themselves and that's what we really After Tomorrow mission is was a fun James Harding thank you very much indeed.

Thank you for having me on.


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