Read this: Media Masters - Lydia Polgreen
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medium mattress with Paul Blanchard
welcome to media Masters a series of one-to-one interviews with people at the top of the media game today here in New York and drop by Lydia polgreen editor-in-chief of huffpost appointed in 2016.
She previously spent 15 years at the New York Times where she served as foreign correspondent in Africa and Asia she received numerous awards for her work including a George Polk Award for a coverage of ethnic violence and death in 2006 he carried out a number of roles of the Times most recently as editorial director of MIT global she's also bought my brick Columbia journalism review and the committee to protect journalists Lydia thank you for joining me to pleasure to be here so Lydia editor-in-chief of huffpo obviously an iconic brand with an amazing history where you going to take it next well.
I think past is Prologue and the future is unknown passcode deeply profound affinity new media right now.
It says it's a really fascinating moment of both rediscovery of our roots and those roots really.
I in what are the core of journalism which is exposing things that weren't meant to be known or that people important people especially don't want to be known and bringing them to life the person have posted.
That's really the core of identity in who we are doing journalism that holds power to account.
That's been true for much of its history and certainly when Ariana founded it.
You know it it had this kind of this is it was a Blog but it was also in a very much concerned with progressive politics and overtime it's evolved to win a Pulitzer Prize in many other kinds of prizes in so we are not necessarily reinventing ourselves whole cloth were really thinking about what's great about our Legacy and had a wee then take that into the future in the 21st Century and where we are today.
Do you feel quite a sense of responsibility given that it is aniconic global Media brand.
It's a huge responsibility and when I was name to this post.
It was a little bit terrifying to be honest it on.
Respect each other some ambition absolutely and I think they're part of that is respect for what Arianna huffington hit bill to me.
This is the thing that carried her name and really had bolted her the kind of global Fame so am I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to think about how can I take this iconic brand that is very much are associated with its founder as it should be and give it a new life and new expression that continues to pay homage to Ariana built but then also takes us into the future and it is something that can be independent of other because she's obviously move down and started a new company.
So it is a tremendous responsibility we serve in a line in a good man 270 million users a month people come to us from across the globe in they rely on us to tell real story is centred on the lives of real people and that is an enormous responsibility, so what's top of your to-do list at the moment well like most of the media landscape right now in the United States at least were there.
Very focused on politics we are right at the beginning of what seems to be like a never-ending political cycle because you've gone an elected a lunatic those are your words not mine.
It's true Donald Trump is President and there is going to be a really really fierce political battle to try and remove him through an election rather than through impeachment or other means although that could happen as well.
There's a very bright democratic sleep right now you have I think of 20 candidates who have declared there's a big battle for the soul of the democratic party and what it will represent in our audience is deeply engaged in that story so that's incredibly important, but also tracking really major stories all around the world.
Obviously the incredible shambolic events happening in Westminster right now in the UK are our correspondent who works in the lobby Paul what keeps us up-to-date minute by minute on the
Madness that happening over brexit in An insane asylum soon, I think of them in the whole thing is crazy.
Isn't it enjoys the crazy to be honest and journalist? That's the way that we are the more the more the more radically while the situation is the more fun or having them, but they're very serious things that steak obviously with brexit.
So it's it's not all fun and games it's also about documenting the real harms that could come to the UK if brexit is not done in the right way, and I think you're seeing a lot of Fear about what a No Deal brexit or hard brexit could mean for the Chimera people's lives and that's what I really really important story for us and then across the elections.
We having edition in India is Malawi elections happening there this year.
They are going to be really really hard fat and contested.
There's been a tremendous amount of political violence in India much of it fuelled by the big digital social platforms that a story that we've been tracking so really there is off.
Kinds of things all across the globe that were keeping a really close eye on do you think there's too much news at the moment? I'm a little bit news that there's so much stuff happening that out that sometimes almost getting used fatigue and you'll see that way at not typical reader our visitor to your site might say decrease the Frequency by which they they visit your side not not because of anything you're doing but because there's just they just need time off you would think that people would get tired of the news but in fact.
I think if anything people's engagement and interest is increasing and Stakes are higher that's really high and I think that we are in a moment where the the political is personal in the personal is political and for our audience in particular, which tends to be younger and progressive there is a real sense of existential threat and people do want to be informed about the things that are happening in their communities all around the world so we are not seeing of a fatigue in that sense.
I think people really want to know not just what's happening, but how it's gonna affect their lives and what's reaction that can take to make things better soon.
The demographic of your readership, does is that a lot younger and a lot more diverse than say that of a traditional newspaper? I think it is it is quite diverse so we haven't we have a real spread of very young diverse progressive millennials in an evenly vincenzi which is the generation that comes after millennials, but then we also have a really strong cohort of people who are my parents age in their 60s and 70s are deeply engaged those folks tend to be quite passionate about politics and really really interested in in progressive issues, so climate change you know the questions around in a quality they really really driving there in the Passions for that audience so so we like to think of any answers being really kind of across the board we attract a really broad swath of society across many different demographics.
So how does that work in terms of their distinctiveness then cos off.
With her a magazine or a traditional newspaper.
You might have heard a traditional read reminder type of person there might be a certain gender all the might live in a certain location of his son age at it sounds like you guys appeal to so many people that you'll be difficult to actually compartmentalize them the coolest thing that we know about her audience is a diesel people who are really passionate about making the world a better and Farrar place and so it's less about their age is less about their income although.
I'm happy to say we do have a fairly high income audience and it in and core demographics that are very attractive to advertisers and I'm sure we'll talk about about the Year the business end of journalism at some point in this conversation, but I think that weren't really Unites the huffpost community is a desire to see the world become a better warfare more equal Play Store shed centred values.
I think it's absolutely driven by values and what interesting is for journalism companies.
I think that's that's a relatively new phenomenon, but it's it's something that you're seeing.
Lots of other companies as well and companies that are seeking to market their products to the types of people who really care about values are finding that they themselves also have to take a stand you look at a company like Nike for example Nike has to serve a huge swath of the population.
It's a major global brand.
They took a huge risk by embracing Colin Kaepernick a very controversial global figure for his stance on on on police brutality and not wanting to stand kneeling during the national anthem if you want.
Oh my gosh their customers are all going to run away but in fact nike's market cap one up by 67 billion dollars and after baby released this campaign so loved it when I saw but I thought I'm not the person that's going to have to have their minds changed well in fact.
I remember reading a story a couple of months ago about a conservative sports store owner who actually had to shut down because once you stop caring Nike products in protest.
The Colin Kaepernick decision they they lost a tremendous amount of business, so I think I think what you're seeing is that people do want to consume brands that show their values and huffpost.
I think really tries to reflect the values of its audience that brings me onto my next question because you put ordinary people and human stories at the heart of huffpost journalism, how does that actually work in practice for us stories willy beginning with our audience ride one of the things that we did not long after I started in 2017 it took a week.
We got bass and we put huffpost big huffpost stickers all over it and we drove it around the country 226 City's goal and doing that was really to try and talk to people and find out what's really on your mind to be 2000 people didn't get sweet weird every close to 2000 people and we ended up doing a second tour in 2018 a head of the midterms and it was really fascinating because what we heard from our audience was not only want you to really stick it to Donald Trump they didn't say.
Oh you need you need to tell us about every twist and turn of the Muller investigation, so we know when this guy's going to be brought down people would deeply deeply concerned about issues that affect their community and even though each community is different there were some very very strong themes that came through you know housing as it is a major problem in America was definitely on my radar, but it was one of the very very top things that people talked about this crisis of affordable housing and so out in the UK as well absolutely add.
This is a global problem.
Anywhere where there is employment.
There is a housing crisis and often that employment is not sufficient to allow someone to afford decent housing in the place where they live and this is something that's not just happening in cities like Los Angeles or New York it something is happening in places like Boise Idaho and so so it we got a very clear single.
This is a really important thing so we put a reporter on it people talk to us about inequality being a major source of concern for them, Healthcare
We have a crisis of healthcare in this country.
We have two full-time reporters devoted to covering Healthcare CNN just as important.
They were the things that we decided we working at you and I'm one of those things was not have a big team.
That was relentlessly focused on the endless investigations into Donald Trump because our audience told us that that's actually not our Focus those are the issues that we care about the most other news organizations of course have devoted tremendous amounts of resources to covering those things which is all the more reason why we can say you know what will leave that to them and will focus on the things that we know are absolutely vital to serving our audience and makes it distinctive mean at the end of the day.
I really I really like to think about us as doing service journalism, and we think of service journalism is being in something in the women's pages something like that about how do you called me the right in a lipstick colour with your complexion or what should I cook for dinner tonight 32 ways to do chicken?
Very dismissive way to think of service because I think if the goal of that kind of journalism is to help people make their lives better, but I did that the goal of all journalism should be the help people make their lives better, so we really take that service mentality and applied to all the journalism that we do.
How did you get into journalism? What's your personal journey? Well, my first Big Scoop happened when I was editor of The High School paper in Accra Ghana at the time of my family was living in Ghana because of my father's job and the high school paper is called Vibes and I've learnt that Ziggy Marley and Son of Bob Marley was in Accra giving a concert and I was absolutely determined that I was going to get an exclusive interview.
I mean we already provides as editor of viruses LinkedIn profile the he was staying at this Beach hotel, and so I would just kind of hang around if you already have a nose for the story but then it was absolutely convinced that I was going to get this scooping alternately.
I did know it was incredibly embarrassing interview and thankfully.
There are no extent copies has had this great interest in and passion for the news.
I want to know what was going on before anybody else did so that I could tell other people about it and feel really smart it important that also possible to consume Direct curiosity centre Venus no sense of what happened in Eastern West Africa I had the privilege of witnessing news major events unfold before my eyes when I was 6 years old in Kenya 1982 when there was a massive coup attempt that and that my family lives through and in an in some ways, it was terrifying but another way is it really kind of set up set a pattern in a path for me? I've always wanted to be right with the action was and then you know.
I was in high school.
I was going to the transition from dictatorship to Democracy in that was incredibly exciting to witness it so I think I knew deep down that I wanted to have a life that involved being a witness to an extraordinary events and I'm telling people about them and after high school when I went to when I went to college.
I I should have left out for a while.
I got very into philosophy and I thought only be able to come a philosophy professor took a year off after college and worked it in a law office in thought of obtuse office life just isn't for me.
I don't think this is what I meant to be doing I find myself staring at the clock waiting for it to be 5 and thinking then another says I live the Roku when I was six this isn't she how I should be living my life and I got an internship with a magazine and it just kind of took off from there and then a minute I started actually doing journalism.
I was like.
Oh yeah, this is the thing it can bind my passion for writing with with with this great pattern that I had four.
The middle in the centre of things then and being a witness and end and I haven't given it upsets and you've long since abandoned any desire to return to the rounds of philosophy long ago long ago.
I somewhere in the somewhere with all the dust bunnies in the back of my brain.
There is some interesting thoughts about haggling leibnitz and things like that, but I'm not I've heard of their names are they would be very hard for me to access of this boy look like I'm asking the question because you said who are there and half men the flood that I am on that but I mean they say that journalism is the first draught of history anyway, don't they and and and you know when you were here read huffpo with you either New York Times or whatever it might be your choosing the lens through which you want to see the world reported to you.
So there is an element of Applied philosophy in journalism in any event I was so sorry and I think particularly journalists like to see the world through multiple lenses most people do as well.
You know they Wanna Know
They have put the one another huffpost perspective on the story, but they're also interested in white Fox News has to say you're there interested in what the Guardian might have to say and I think one of the great things about this digital transformation that we've been through and there a lot of not so great things about it.
Is that ability to pull in so many different sources and see the world from so many different perspectives and for me.
I think that that's an incredibly enriching so you were editor of vibes.
We were banned in the philosophy career.
We decide he didn't want to work in a lower face when you start on that journalism path.
What was the first big job that you had well I guess the first the first real reporting job that I had was at a was at a newspaper up in Albany either.
I covered three little towns Albany New York which is the capital city of New York strangely enough New York City is not the capital of New York
You know that was just a very lucky break on my partner.
I happened to meet when I was a journalism school at the woman who ran the program that hired young journalists into the times better programme.
Where are you coming as a trainee at a slightly lower pay scale and you had two years representing the Dorset or exactly and I'm not really changed my life and the remarkable thing about that was when you work at the Times you're just immediately plunged into the absolute big leaves of journalism and so I thought I would have been months before I have a story in the paper and it will certainly could be years before I have a front page story and 3 days after I started I ended up being assigned to work with another much more senior reporter on a big breaking story of an investigation into something at the park service and that that reporter a fella name Ben wiser who still works within your x legendary legendary reporter.
Insisted that we should share a byline in at that time that was actually pretty rare double bar lines were not super common and I always felt that that was a great gesture on his part was that the Splash page let me know everyone's on the front page.
I don't forget load the page the page, but it might be on the front page and they give you your first front page byline.
They actually give you the middle plate of that page which is Which is a great Memento I think my mother has it now because everytime I want to preiser or get a diploma or anything.
I just send it to my mother who's got a little a little lamb museum of sorts of of all these things while to your country as well, but yes it sound like a very humble very proud and very pleased for herself mum rightly so she has always encouraged me to a very very high so been very
Fortunate in that regard.
I'm so once you end up with in your times as even is it as a young reporter? It's just kind of pure opportunity and I tried to make the most of it.
I had my first solo front page by line when I did a story that noticed that there's always been as big fight over public bathrooms in York City and New York City does not have enough public restrooms Ibiza spanner prices for many many years and I remember walking around Union Square and and seeing that that actually they're all these change stores there and all of these chain stores like the Barnes and Noble are the Starbucks they all had bathroom said the public can use and so I wrote a story that basically argued that big chain stores had become the de facto public bathroom with New York City and in this ended up deleting the front page editors and they say this is a fun read.
Let's let's put it on page one, so which is about the I just get a real kick out of this moment.
See you know when you when you come up with an idea.
That's your own and you say.
People might be interested in this and ends up running on the front page.
That's a real kick, but it was my dream to become a foreign correspondent.
I was not to be satisfied with being that the restroom correspondent for the New York Times all the restrooms are the new battleground of gender politics these days this was long before they were a battleground.
I am I'm sad to say I did not see that one coming down anyway.
Just use the restroom that they want to use other say you would think simple it seems it seems it seems pretty simple but it's taking a circle on a long time to get even close to that and were not there yet and Ally McBeal was like in the early nineties all something for goodness sake do we learn nothing from that if I personally feel like I learnt a great deal from Ally McBeal me too.
It's a it's a the dancing baby.
You know that was a member for the remain 15 years of the times and it said he got teeth first front page splash on the on the the restrooms issued then but you did the role of foreign correspondent come calling then again.
Serendipity the the west Africa Bureau chief needed to move to Baghdad because her husband has done the job there and she wanted to go on in Ibiza with him.
They needed someone in Baghdad and she's a very talented corresponding to the people is very happy to oblige and they found themselves wanting somebody who was willing to move in it very short notice to to west African at the time.
You know that that region was just on fire that was the Civil War in in Ivory Coast there was a civil war in Congo the crisis in Darfur was going on that was just a lot happening it so they needed somebody who could go you know lickety-split and I put my hand up in on on little other qualifications in my own Curiosity and the fact that I've spent most of my childhood living in Africa they said well.
You seem promising will send you and and I was incredibly grateful they do it and I spent 200 to 5 years in the west Africa Bureau covering a whole range of things I mean a lot of it was conflict but also a lot of it was democracy.
Building and development I got to see a major transformations happen that part of the world the kinds of things that.
I really like to focus on which is how human beings figure out how to live together and share space and share power share resources those are the big themes that I then I cared about Hurricane by Donna sleep because I might my dad in working in global development when I was a kid with an African so I was very interested in natural resources and economic growth and all those kinds of things and sell those with the kinds of stories that I really gravitated to when I wasn't me now helicoptering into refugee camps in Darfur do you think Western media gets the coverage in the temperament of the tone of their African coverage right when I've been too many times with work and another so many prosperous areas I was in Tanzania recently Dar es Salaam and has a thriving Central Business district and yet.
This is kind of white saviour concept concept with the we have with Comic Relief in the UK where many people are saying that it's actually perpetuating.
Borderline racist set me out of date stereotypes for fundraising showing those you know that the dusty African villages with the Starving child at one of my friends is a producer that shot her something and Africa recently planted on a we can't use that cause all the kids around shoes.
It doesn't look accurate and the kids take their shoes off and shoot again in my friend did the fundraising and he said as he also perpetuates that damaging stereotype absolutely they're there to tropes that I find equally troubling them both troubling.
What is a Hopeless basket Case Africa's is is not even a group of 50 countries, but it's just one big miasma of years ago.
It's just African people with you now.
No hoping just waiting for the latest and above grade and loan.
How to get that is is absolutely and 100% for so mean they're clearly places where there is a great deal of strife in a great deal of poverty.
There is in America there is the impression that there is another form of of American of distorted view of Africa that comes from the kind of McKinsey Africa rising perspective which is you know that Africa is actually week.
We shouldn't really focus on on the on the bad part.
We should focus on the beautiful gleaming Towers in Johannesburg how you know there is describe can do entrepreneurial spirit in Nigeria and that it's somehow that these two things that that the prosperity and poverty are not inextricably linked to one another and I think that the reality is that that that that strain of thinking about covering Africa that it needs to be booster rich snacks to me of a kind of racism is where?
Neverland represents a kind of treating the continent is if it's a collection of of slow children that need encouragement rather than a collection of Extraordinary societies and Wings some of them coin ancient native accomplish great things in the past and I think the other the other piece of that narratives and it did get the other piece of that narrative erasers.
Is is colonial history.
Yeah, I think we don't really reckon with the extraordinary role that the West has played in creating the crisis that do exist in in sub-saharan Africa and they are many Nigeria or or today and I'm in Sudan was created as a country out of whole cloth for no sensible reason at all other than the geopolitical convenience of the powers that that that were at the time and so no one do the country has been.
In the civil war 4 almost entirely destroyed in so I think I think that having a sense of where you come from but the deeper root causes are of the conflicts that you're covering is absolutely essential and neither this just deeply depressing in our poor Africa business nor this booster Ash Africa rising business really get at Woodward Africans deserve which is a very real Reckoning with their societies and their the economy is in the political life that that that are living with and so that was always the goal for me and my coverage was to really kind of living that in that in that zone where you're you're you're seeing things clearly and on a much grander scale than just this this the Snapchat of the very moment and did you feel your journalism played a part in challenging the stereotypes that you know when you after that 5 Year period when when you look back and reflect how did you feel about your role in journalism? Leave it to readers to decide.
Ultimately whether I I struck the right now, but you always always trying to sort it to challenge stereotypes.
I did one story out with the end of my time.
This is my second tour in Africa when I was based in South Africa about tobacco farming in Zimbabwe and there is there is this belief that after the Robert Mugabe the dictator that you know terrible terrifying dictator of of Zimbabwe see you stole the way down farms and redistributed them that you know all of the farms went to his political cronies and be the entire tobacco farming industry had collapsed and know what it really gone to check up on that and say is that really true that turned out that actually they were a bunch of research has he been looking at the tobacco industry and found that for the first time in this year.
I want to say to destroy maybe a 2018 thousand 9 the size of the tobacco crab actually matched what it had been before the land seizures the only difference was instead of let's a1200 white farmers splitting up the tobacco.
That was Grown you had 60000 black farmers.
So they were getting less money than eat white farmer was but it was being shared between many many many more people and I got a lot of push back from that's right because the stereotype is Len wrist redistribution in in Zimbabwe just made everyone poor in it all went to to to to cronies of the political powerful internet when I went down the report of the Dead actually just wasn't true now.
That's not to say that horrific atrocities were not committed that but the reality is that the situation is existed before then was fundamentally and just you know you had a very small group of people who had a stranglehold on wealth creation and the end result regardless and how they make the means that you got their head and fundamentally made.
This is highly marketable one can can can critique the morals in in in in my peace.
I died aged of of how that that end was achieved, but those things need to be said they need to be reported out.
No stories need to be told it's it's good that you checked that because that the stories in the reality that situation deal journalism anecdote isn't it? Is that the job of the genus is not to report that one person says it's sunny and on the other hand someone else's it's raining.
They are the top of the journalist is to look out the window and find out what the weather's actually like exactly right in this case you know trumping around tobacco farms in Zimbabwe and talking to Farmers and trying to understand you now wait this.
This is just a poor person from some other part of the country.
They are not some rich crony of the of the political party in power and doing that leg work.
You know where you're literally in tobacco, warehouses looking at different grades of tobacco and talking to the Farmers and talking to their wives and their children.
That's how you get those kinds of stories and it's it's it's going there.
So what happened at the end of your second toe then will you call back to base? How does that work? Yeah? Yeah, so so you know West Africa and India for 3 years and then South Africa the last Oreo covered in cm.
Africa with the funeral of Nelson Mandela which was the Three Tuns then yeah, yeah, which was that was a Bittersweet you know because the thing is when you're when you're the South Africa correspondent for the New York Times or really any news organisation before Nelson Mandela passed on a key part of your brief is to be there when when he dies it was just a major global story and so you know it was it felt so I don't want to say it felt good.
It was very sad when you power when the BBC has rehearsals all the time for when the when the Queen eventually died in the Guardian bit of detailed all of the plans that are disability exactly the same sort of thing every male news anchors the BBC has to have a black tie with them whenever they go now just in case the Queen dies.
Yeah, that is that is that is remarkable.
How do we say you're hanging around it you hanging around Johannesburg waiting for Nelson Mandela to die eventually does then what happens and then I get asked to come back to base.
To become an editor which is the reward you get I suppose for and being a good form corresponding is eventually they make you stop doing your favourite job in starting send them being like that the the taxi controller for the people doing the job you want to do in the receiving their exciting entry to intrude.
I felt to me like a real opportunity.
They can I give back and you do get tired writing me in this this always being on call always happy Qatar flights one of the last thing that I did that wasn't out of routine the expected stories this before Nelson Mandela died was that the Marley crisis when you're the northern half of the country was overrun.
I just had a little old for this.
I'm heading towards for your kind of baby.
What a little bit of a different a different kind of life.
They will call came from from my my then then bar stroke on saying.
Who would you be would you be interested in coming and being deputy foreign editor and I said well, you know this could be a good good change for me and I also felt editors had done so much to create unit is for me that it would be really fun and very satisfying to be able to do that for other people and I just engaged a different different part of my brain in thinking about about journalism.
So so I did and came back and I do that for a while and then I'm when you came back.
How did the time doing your 3 toes? How did that change? It was a person do you become more optimistic on more cynical or did it change it? I will you the same person returning after those that you were when you started on the 1st of anything.
I felt like I knew a lot more about the world a lot more about the extraordinary privileged privileged that we take for granted in our lives here in the United States I knew a lot more about solving problems so much of
In a foreign correspondent is just being super Wiley figuring out how to get into a country where the government doesn't want you in there in a figuring out how to get from point a to point B when a road is washed out all that kind of logistical stuff is actually a huge part of the job in and it's it's really creative problem solving don't need that here in Midtown Manhattan to hear it depends on what you're asking those kinds of skills actually do transfer to other things and you don't know that I am running a big news organisation.
I find that that ability to be scrappy and to solve problems in unconventional ways, how comes in really handy, so it's oh so I definitely enjoyed that but you don't the other way in which in which I think I had changed and endocytic turn out to be very useful for many times was a potentially grown up as a foreign correspondent as the internet and as particularly as the social web became the subdominant.
Beings of distribution for stories and it it it was a time when I think the times was was really kind of looking at its digital transformation and thinking how can we be better? How can we really harness these too old to enrich our journalism and it's it's it's not an accident that the people who have I think been at the forefront of the digital transformation that in many cases Returned foreign Correspondents because they spent a long time away without ever having access to the physical paper and used all of these tools whether it's the social web Twitter and Facebook and just the internet in January to go to some of these transformational projects really fun and I found that that I enjoyed that and so when I want a project started to try and significantly increased the number of subscribers of the New York Times has around the world.
I am I was asked you to help lead that because the the the goal was in the unit that already practice paywall and it was clear that we done quite a lot of subscribers in the United States but it was clear also that there is a can of cosmopolitan class around the world of people who speak English you who want to be informed in For Whom the New York Times is a really great product in we need to figure out how to make it better in my relevant and we had Mark Thompson sitting in that chair and and he said that you don't as a citizen need you know it's troublesome.
What Donald Trump is doing but I'll see you after New York Times it's the best thing that could ever happen because every time he attacks that so-called failing New York Times for hundreds of thousands of people start sign up to pay the $15 a month to say right well done independent federalism is more needed now than ever in.
This is something that over and over again in my time as it is a foreign correspondent, but you know institutions when put under stress.
Can you really come to appreciate? What they do for you as a society and I think that's definitely happened with journalism.
I mean I'm on the board of the community protect journalists in you know what a great moment when you have Meryl Streep get up and say Amen and awards ceremony and that's televised live on TV donate money to the committee to protect journalists in the aftermath of trump victory and so it's been very gratifying to see a real rallying around journalism in this area and so seeing organizations like the New York Times really rise from the Ashes and I think a lot of people forget how close then you're x came to YouTube Oblivion I mean thanks to the fortitude of the sulzberger family which is protected this very precious institution for generations, but also the very very smart business decisions by folks who said not working I put up a wall and we're gonna figure out how to market this thing how to create the best digital product at we possibly can and I give huge amounts to credit.
Has a credit to the current publishing AG sulzberger to his father also Arthur sulzberger people like Mark Thompson and Meredith levien in the executives there.
I think I've just done a tremendous job of of of articulating the value of independent journalism in the world and figuring out the formula to get people to pay for it which I think is great and that neatly sidesteps me on to the next question of course which is how you do, you turn a profit as a digital publishing New York Times charges me $15 a month or whatever 3:30 at how do you convince advertisers that it's that you know they need to support that news journalism.
How can you get off but steady profit think I think this is a really interesting question and really can I get to the heart of why I stepped away from the New York Times and took over at huffpost in important.
It was because the New York Times has the name the embarrassment of riches of talented people who can do editorial jobs there and so I knew that if I left at the place was going to be just fine.
I mean obviously let you know you just one person could have kept their bank account.
Stolen the money diverted attention no desire to do that.
I think it's driving me your x is absolutely essential to American democracy said they can keep it in your eyes.
I went went with the rise of Donald Trump that there had been a real failure and media by which I don't mean that I don't mean that institutions like the New York Times it failed.
I think themselves look back and say maybe we Focus audible too much on Hillary Clintons emails but that aside that wasn't he issued to me the big question was you have this this this massive stratification happening Society right we all hear about inequality and growing inequality and how you know the Richard the 1% than the 0.1% are doing so well and all these other people are being left behind the police on in media as well.
So you have a handful of really fantastic Legacy news organizations that are pioneering business models that essentially involves the consumer pain.
That product and that's great but ultimately there are a whole lot of people are there in the world who are never going to pay to subscribe to a news organisation if they do payday payday cable Bill and they get a bundle is part of that you know that they get CNN but they probably got cable because they wanted to watch this TV program received the sports games report ever.
What side is the news wasn't that the thing that really drove them to subscribe and in an era, where fake news in access to Quality information and all those kinds of things is such a big deal.
It seemed to me that someone really needed to be thinking about journalism for people who are never going to pay for journalism because let's be honest that the subscribers to the New York Times are some the best educated most affluent people living in some ways to people me the information the least so so I was really moved by this challenge of figuring out how to create high-quality Freda consumer journalism and
And it is and I knew this going and an enormous challenge that we should at least we've seen the value of digital advertising under pressure from the big platforms like Google and Facebook I'm just turned down down down down down and yet.
I really felt that there was a tremendous opportunity here and I think that that that feeling of Opportunity is only grown as I've seen the incredibly negative role that these platforms have taken in our public life in general training at conspiracy theories push radicalising people things like that's crazy that I think it is lead lead a significant number of companies to rethink their engagement with these two or something and we really are we really investing in the right things.
Are you often hear from advertisers that we don't want to be anywhere near the news.
We don't want to be near terrorist attacks a plane crashes and things like that and I can understand.
And at the same time do they want to be on a platform where there are videos of beheadings or in a child pornography? You're a horrible things that have absolutely no editorial filter, so I've heard that a lot of the Facebook moderators need counseling because they're just so desensitized a constant bombardment with incredible images.
I'm sure you can imagine what they would have to see a moderate on that many of them suffer mental health problems all rethinking the role that these platforms.
I think brands need to be thinking as well if you think that I would say is that your ear seen companies.
We took her earlier about values receipt companies that are spending significant amount of money on things that are without marketing money or corporate social responsibility money on things that they think are important to make the world a better place and so my pitch to CMOS and and in big brands.
Do you wanna live in a world? Where people are incredibly poorly informed and where access to journalism is restricted to basically only those who can afford it or do you want to work in a where do you wanna live in a world where I'm high quality news and information is freely available to just about everyone and so I would urge them to think about spending their marketing dollars on on journalism and digital platforms data that are really dedicated to do in quality journalism as important as the money that they spend on issues like sustainability and other things that are important.
Not just because they're the right thing to do when they comport with the values that their consumers are demanding but also compared with the idea that you're going to have a stable business operating environment.
I mean all of this instability were experiencing in the world right now whether it's brexit of the trump presidency of what's going on in India what have you so much of it could be solved or could be ameliorated if we could just
Turn the temperature down of our media and journalism environment if we could get people back to understanding what's going on in the world sharing agreed upon the facts about that.
We do for a local driving for about half poster, that would do for local journalism and to me that were a lot of the solution lies that the company's really do need to rethink this attitude of the head towards news and rethink the role that news play is as part of our overall information ecosystem, and how important is stability of that ecosystem is to their profit margins, but it's also in their commercial interests as in I mean if your if your I'm trying to give up like a mass market brands like say Walgreens all right here.
You don't just want to advertise merely to New York Times readers you want to be advertising your products to USA Today readers huffpost readers because the more eyeballs you can get in front of with your new you know your new bedroom cabinet the more likely that is Stephen increase sales.
Sure, I think anything that challenge is that the primary way in which big companies have reached those consumers is through the big certain social platforms.
I was recently looking for a piece of furniture and I went on I am a site and look at it and that piece of furniture has been following me around the internet for the past 3 months constantly persistently popping up in every ad format and I think that company is a receipt and I like well.
It's pretty effective you know we can just not people over the head not eventually they put the hopefully by it was the old trick isn't it now if you're trying to stick to your friends up now you search for something embarrassing on their computer in Google I mean Councillor search solid around by you know incontinence pads or something.
It's hilarious that says a lot about the state of journalism right now so it didn't.
Rihanna has found in can of Liberal progressive values still apply to Oliver global have signed so you know you were not challenging those views interesting things.
I think something that Ariana herself in head-to-head.
Thought about to one of the things that has happened over the past few years is that the traditional political axis of just completely gutting scrambled right? I mean ideas that were on the left you now see On the Ride and ideas that are on the right now see on the left questions about meat trade is a great example right you had in the UK is completely torn asunder over this question of open borders and trade and brexit has a lot of left wing supporters the labour Heartlands in the North Pole voted brexit.
Yes exactly in the leader of the Labour Party is in favour of brexit lies and says he isn't but at least favourite person in the world to tell me that IM
Out with the bitterness of someone who's a Party member for 24 years and worship Tony Blair 313 elections in a row change the country for the better now.
We're electable shambles X Factor this is a frustration I hear a great deal about but you know I think I think that the traditional ideological polls have absolutely been scrambled and so for me.
It's less about are you on the left? Are you on the right then? What is your fundamental orientation towards power and ultimately we see ourselves as being aligned with people who feel the day been left out of the prevailing political and economic power arrangements and on that side.
You'll find you know remainers in your find brexit ears.
You'll find trump voters and you'll find Bernie Sanders photos in you find Hillary voters and and I think for me that that's that's really cool.
We are and that that may mean that ultimately our editorial prospect.
Tooth is aligned with a lot of things that you hear from Quran quote progressive candidates, but the truth is those those ideas are also embraced by solid if not vast majority of Americans in in in with people in in other parts of the country as well, so you think it's a really interesting question is how you think about yourself and particularly in the American context in an era of extreme partisanship, but partisanship that doesn't actually represent ideas are values.
So just represents a kind of weird tribalism.
Am I end up for us? I think wait wait.
We try to stand for ideas and values and that's true.
I think across the board and there are places where there any of those ideals and values actually does come at a cost and and is and is it can even be dangerous mean obviously we have core beliefs around things.
Flight the fundamental dignity of all people and morality democracy exactly so you know where your country is Zara workwear where for example of lgbtq people around us considerable threat or even face you know laws that criminalize.
They're at their lives and any reporting Thailand that even indirectly criticizes the monarchy risks pigs running prison for the rest of their life exactly so you know we stand for those those values of free expression and and egalitarianism inequality in doing my research on you before we are we met For This podcast at I read that you've been described as the queer black woman changing journalism, how to make you feel to be described as that at least the queer black part and women partners are all those are all the correct to the changing journalism part.
I don't know it's flattering then.
I think it's really important.
People from all kinds of backgrounds races sexual orientations are represented in in media a represented in in leadership in media, so I feel incredibly proud and I think that I carry all of those identities with me and they inform the work that I do and I think in which the work they do at the same time.
I'm also a person who spent most of my career as a journalist is a foreign correspondent, so I'm very used to being in situations where I'm an outsider.
I mean that's in many ways bring the story of my life.
I've spent most of my life living in countries that won't my own being a woman in patriarchal.
Societies being a great person in places.
Where were being queer was not not tolerated and so I'll make it my business to to try and really understand difference and celebrate difference and and be smart about difference and I think that's a really important thing for anyone in the leader.
Position to do whether you're black woman or straight white man annoys me about politics is I'm a 43 year old wife slightly chubby man and you know the so many people in politics like me.
That's a well.
I've never suffered any discrimination so it can't be out there, but I'm I'm the person who is least likely to be discriminated against or something that's right, and I think that we need to create space for all kinds of people to emerge in in in all of the Industries of Powerade I mean you look at what's happening right now in the US Congress in this group of incredibly fiery young women who have just blown up in and I think I'm really speak for an emerging generation.
That is saying to inspiring just like to do things the way that we used to and now I think it is in love with the said we're going to do calendar.
The weather for Alfreton you know it takes a lot of guts to take on an incumbent very powerful member of the House of Representatives who is part of the leadership has been in office a very long time on his home turf.
I mean that takes real guts and I think I wanted it to be president within about 10 seconds of seagull dancing on the news about I like that.
You should be president much worse than where we are right now.
So so I think they're probably people who are constitution.
She's not yet old enough and it's so annoying.
What do you think the media is opening up to a more diverse workforce.
You know there are opportunities still denied to people of colour more gender or sexuality on those grounds absolutely anything on the one hand.
I think there is there a tremendous good intentions and on the other hand there are addicted to increase diversity on the other hand.
I think there are tremendous obstacles.
Journalism remains a highly elite profession where people get jobs based on where they went to school or who they know and those networks are incredibly important.
I mean it's not if you're hiring for a job the first place you go is your circle of Friends at home and your the people you've worked with in the past previous bosses the alumni network of where you went to school and that is of necessity because of the history of this country going to mean that that network is going to exclude huge numbers of people so I think I think that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in creating pathways 4 all kinds of people to come into this profession and in the same time as a professional is very much under stress amino Yankee black me today.
Should I go into a career in journalism? And I say it's the best thing I've ever done but I also know that I was probably the last generation that had the traditional career aib now got a job this morning me to pay.
Another one and then I moved up the management ranks and spent 15 whole year is it it? It it really great newspaper expecting to have a job and having a job exactly and I think that in this fragmentation.
There's there's a tremendous the really tremendous questions about about what happened unity there really is out there.
So it's it's it's a huge and Incredibly the devilling challenge but I think that it's one that we can solve if we just have the resolve to do it and if if people really and truly want these places to transform the may need to be open to transformation and they have to be open to the idea that the voice of your institution will change because that voice is almost certainly the voice of a middle-aged white man and if you want your institution to be more diverse if you want to attract talented people who come from different backgrounds.
You have to tell the mic to them and say.
No, no, I want your voice.
I don't I'm not going to say spend 10 years learning unlearning your voice and learning mind you have to say I'm going to bring to the table things that I know that might be helpful to you, but I'm not gonna try and tell you that your voice need to send to me that that sort of transformation still has yet to happen or still quite Cliff set alarm as I mean, I've been positively challenge myself as as an employer of people is someone said to me come of years ago that you shouldn't ask women their salary when you're hiring them because it actually perpetuates the systemic discrimination of women because if I ask a woman what are salaries and about Hiro she's likely to be paid much less than a man in to be the same role in what I add 5% onto a woman salary is going to be less than the 5% added to a man's this in my career where you know you're you're hiring a new person into a job that a man is left and I basically taking it as a policy that if the two of them have the same types of qualifications regardless of what the person.
Making before I bring them in at the salary that the person left the job was was in or or or perhaps even more if they're at their qualifications are better and I just think that's good practice.
We have so much accumulated debt to pay in at the very least that we can do now you mentioned that the sense of isolation on or on the date the grounds of your gender your ethnicity sexuality did do you have a sense of isolation even now because of your seniority the fact that it be the editor-in-chief that is that a lonely job in a what type of editor.
Are you I run a small business and you know I'm not lonely told personally but there is a sensible and I speak to a lot of leaders of businesses of teams that there is that sensor professional loneliness.
I never describe myself as lonely every night.
I say I have a great team and it's a very egalitarian team.
I mean I am obviously as the as the editor-in-chief in the person in charge you you have to take decisions, but we work in a really collaborative and
So so I never really feel lonely in that sense.
There is a bunch of Pierce I'm really great.
Who do the same sort of job that idea and they keep me great company we commiserate me now.
We have drinks and complain about various and sundry things internet keeps me from getting lonely last question for you then lady.
What's next deliberately vague and open questions I really love them doing I mean who can think about the future right now.
I mean I'm trying to get through today without bursting into tears focus on.
I'm being absolutely excellent at the job.
I'm doing right now and look at some point.
I'd like to go back to writing and I'm pretty sure I have a bucket you in me and proper back to reporting at some point.
I don't know we shall see Lady it's been a hugely interesting conversation inspirational at thank you ever so much free time such a pleasure.
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