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Read this: Media Masters - Roula Khalaf

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Media Masters - Roula Khalaf…

Media Masters with Paul Blanchard welcome to media Masters series of one-to-one interviews with people at the video game by roula khalaf deputy editor of the Financial Times starting at the ft 1995s North Africa correspondent, she later became Middle East correspondent and then Middle East editor then she now oversees the activities network of foreign Correspondents and Bureau as well as writing regularly on global politics and business previously staff writer for Forbes Magazine New York she was fixed lies in the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street thank you for joining me nice to hear what is it like to be fixing lies in a Martin Scorsese movie the movie was a terrible terrible movie so I didn't like watching it, but yeah, it does it.

Sort of takes you back to a period of of your career where you didn't quite.

What a great story you were onto because Jordan Belfort later much later when he was in jail wrote a book and he called you an incident reported from Forbes Magazine that I quite liked and he's my name.

So it was at least true but then in the movie you know I had help and I think you know some people from my family have even inquired as to whether I might be contacted or you know I asked you to play please advise me but didn't hear anything from them and just went and watch the movie and so that they used you know ape woman with a sort of a foreign name.

I have no recollection at all.

It wasn't it wasn't true or encounter wasn't true.

I did invite him for an interview at Forbes but I guess you know it may be a character in a movie.

That I had an expected and certainly when I wrote the story back then I Was A rookie reporter and I was interested in in boiler rooms and I got the story through you know someone who knew someone would work for Jordan Belfort and I thought you know back in the day at Forbes you had to come up with original story you could never essentially there to pitch a story that was not original that nobody had ever done and nobody had ever heard of it.

So I thought that would be better would love it to use public swirl with have you know these meetings where every reporter with pets and then you could be ripped apart for fitting a bath Storey or story that the other these days are long gone by the way, what did the film nail a particular moment in the world of finance for you? I think so, but it nails is the excess of

Wall Street but I think that the film exaggerated the role of the boiler room that Jordan Belfort ran it had a much bigger mass of a larger message, but one that he shouldn't really be associated with them in the excesses of Wall Street we're not really about Jordan Belfort and boiler rooms.

They were much much more significant.

I can't remember exactly when the film came out, but it was a few years after the financial crisis.

Do you come across the Jordan belfort's in your current job at the ft different kinds of Jordan Belfort not well not completely different kind of Jordan Belfort more on the political.

More within government that I have in the past covered in the Middle East and not just in government but also in business in within the parties the type of person I would say and the top of unscrupulous person that that Jordan was I certainly come across a lot in my career and I'm not going to quite a bit of detail about you create the ft.

But it in terms of the type of person you are now from when you started at the ft.

How would have you changed personally at you more cynical having dealt with more business people or are you more optimistic that we all cynical as journalists that when I'm not a journalist the word much is brexit dominated your life at your day today role as deputy editor for the past three years our dominant stories, but I figure.

Careful not to be consumed by brexit because we have such a global audience most of our readers are actually not in the UK we have a sizeable share in the UK to Barbados are not in the UK so of course.

This is been the biggest story and one that is very close to home, but we we do we do try to make sure that we're not completely consumed by it you are right though, because he's one of the truly Global International media Brands that you know if I buy the Daily Mirror or the sun.

There's a lens through which I want to look at the world even the Guardian son in terms of the paper, but there is truly international.

I mean I see it in the business clubs are frequent in New York la London Hong Kong and you have to how does that change how you go about your journalism in a sense because you don't have that regional perspective in a sense what we like to say at the ft.

Is that we bring the world to you.

Bring your stories to the world so we bring the brexit story to the rest of the world as well as to our UK audience, but we tend to think of our terms as journalism that travels so it cuts across continents it cuts across sections of society and you know we are right now.

We've just embarked on an us expansion, but when we think of Us expansion we don't immediately think we're going to post hundreds of in the US because that would mean we as an insurgent operation would be attempting to compete with much larger much more established.

I'd rather what we would do and what we are going to do is to make sure that the journalism that we do from Asia from Europe from the UK

Is put before a larger us audience that they get to favour the journalism to feel the journalism and attracted to the journalism in the UK can survive a no-deal brexit economy Will Survive a no-deal brexit if that is where we go, but it could be a different kind of economy.

I think the structure of UK economy could change and I think that is what's the current government is had not thought about certainly not enough and I think that we're not sure whether there are priorities for example.

I mean any any nation and state that is going through what we are going to right now put ourselves through for some reason.

We voluntarily inflicted upon the word actually would be thinking about this.

Questions, but the politics has taken over everything the party politics has taken over and the bigger questions that are important to society are not being asked and one of those questions the questions are would it what is the structure of the UK economy? What kind of economy do we want what kind of states do we want you hear a lot about global Britain but you'll hear a lot as well about contradictions to Global Britain we're going to have trade deals with all countries around the world, but we are just about to leave biggest the biggest the biggest trading partner.

I mean you wrote recently how the crisis has made you nostalgic for Tony Blair something that more people are now beginning to admit so that was that was manna from heaven as I'm concerned.

That's one of the very bright lights of the problem with with the political is that they don't seem to either think about what they're saying or to care whether what they're saying is true or false and I think that often leads to analysis that is simply not true and not credible and I think Tony Blair just seem to make sense to me you know he is as he is at least saying it the way it is and that resonates interesting in the Middle East has played a massive role in your bestie career you ever saw the launch of the Middle East Edition and leg coverage of the Arab Spring so I'm interested in that whole journey, but also you know to see some of the repercussions of Blair and bushes decisions and notably there obviously.

Regime change in Iraq is quite an interesting position that you find yourself in at the time my Focus was on the Middle East at rather than on British politics and so I was looking at the at the actions of bush and and Blair from that perspective and these were actions that one I didn't and to prove to be quite disastrous.

I haven't to have known Iraq and travel there are lots I had the experience and I knew that rebuilding Iraqi Society would be extremely difficult that foreign intervention would lead to a backlash that corrupted the country and everyone any rock was corrupted deliberately corrupted, but you could not out of the

Play Ham recreate a democracy in 100 days.

It will take a generation and it would have to be handled with extreme care not by getting rid of every single institution in the country which is what the us did at the time you look in hindsight.


Just seemed crazy or most breathtaking a naive and Aragorn at the time that they genuinely thought they could do this.

I totally agree with you and you know I went back 10 years after the war and I was really struck by the Nostalgia for Saddam Hussein's that is a very depressing place to be tell us about the Middle East edition of the ft.

What was the Genesis of of launching and how do you go about doing? I mean that must be quite an adventure.


That was a time when.

The story and the golf was much more interesting than it used to be in the past or that.

It is than it is today in fact and so for a few years we expanded our presence in in the golf and we added we're still very print Focus that the time we added a page once a week that only went to readers in the golf and it was it was quite popular at the time and we stopped at spring because the whole dynamic and changed his coverage of the Arab Spring did you know I did I was nearly said at the time that must have been an incredible time journalist that was probably the most exciting time of my career because as a journalist you cover autocratic regimes for a very long time and

You almost come to believe that they will always be there and the Arab Spring nobody predicted.

I didn't predict I could see that at some point and some place around the Middle East the status Quo could not be sustained, but yet the repression was such that people were afraid and you would know that's year after year the apathy and then suddenly it all explodes.

That's not something that could have been predicted in any case because you know what happened in Tunisia had a snowball effect and with social media and the satellite TV and the ability to actually connect with people across borders.

Young people were encourage all over the region and it certainly gave me.

Hope that again.

I knew that it would be a very very difficult transition.

Not least because the middle-east wasn't anchored to a democratic Foundation outside the Middle East and you compare this to to Beeston to Eastern Europe the fall of the Berlin Wall and Eastern Europe and western Europe to support it in the Middle East the countries that could have anchored and nurtured the Arab Spring where the states of the gulf which are all rich and have the money but in fact the states of the gulf let the counter-revolution and so in many ways many of these uprising never really stood a chance to look at the conflict in Syria for example.

I mean that's been watching it.

Just seems to be getting even more horrendous by the door.

So BBC news report recently about me suing government bombing hospitals deliberately targeting them which is clearly a war crime.

Has been able with the help of Iran and Russia closes his authority across the country, but of course it is a broken country.

I think he must be rightly shunned by the international community now.

He's not gonna be able to travel to the country is clearly a war criminal with the magnitsky act bill browder for quite some time now in Shirley has said can't put any of his wealth in foreign government bank.

So you just have to sit there for the rest of his life that is better for him.

Then not sitting there and not being a power.

I mean his worldview is very narrow and what he wants is to continue as President of Syria and dad.

He has achieved.

Are you broadly hopeful for the future because like you said that there's been a lot of positive change but also the more things change the more they stay the same in Saudi Arabia despicable regime is it's always harder now murdering.

Police on its own property you know it just seems to me that whilst there's some scope for hope it is also more options are just some of the israeli-palestinian issue is no engineer resolved.

I have hope in the people yes absolutely but I but if you look at the region today.

It is actually region and the spare.

I don't think it has been as authoritarian in the past two and 56 years so I I don't see a resolution of any of the big problems in in the Middle East certainly not on the palestinian-israeli front certainly not in the gulf certainly not in Egypt where the current president is actually more authoritarian than the one who was overthrown so I don't expect.

Positive developments in the short to medium term President Trump's lack of understanding of the Arab World is it is a dangerous moment for the West and his support for Netanyahu for example.

I think that President Trump has a certain view of the world and it's based on the attitude of this man.

He thinks that he can make deals and I don't think that approaching the Middle East like a real estate deal is going to take him a very far.

That's all real real to really are even you know it wasn't a successful entrepreneur in my view.

He was in a successful entrepreneur but certainly not the least it is not an American president who is an entrepreneur.

I think it would it needs is a US administration that can act as an honest broker and bring party.

Gather and restrain parties when when when there is a need and I think that has been lost there's no there's no actor right now is mature enough to stop conflicts from from erupting or from escalating and I think that even you know during other difficult administrations you always do us always played that role of course during the bush years that us was also fuelling the the fire but looking back at the Obama administration for example.

They had a similar attitude to trump in that.

They wanted to get out of complex then start new ones but they did something about it.

You know they had an actual strategy the trump administration doesn't seem to.

Real policy on the Middle East so if you don't have an end game, it's quite difficult to find your way through and a destabilizes the region you were born in Beirut Lebanon like back then and I grew up during the civil war there were days when we couldn't go to school so we have more days off than normal kids in in other countries that was a good thing at the time for my kids.

Love you absolutely it was a good thing at the time from the point of view and you know we would leave for a year was come back with thing the war is was over we have to we moved quite a bit so it was it was obviously these stabilizing in many ways, but I think I've often thought about this.

I think that even children living through conflict what they say.

Develop a disorder of a like a protective Shield and as long as they're with their parents and they can be with her parents and the family unit is strong.

They can make it they can make it but yeah, I had an interesting try that inspire you into journalism, what started off your journey chapter recently in a book about 4 and condiments and I I wrote a little bit about how I started thinking about becoming a foreign correspondent and I think it was at 1 at one point moved into a tiny little apartment that was right next to the Commodore Hotel and the Commodore Hotel in Beirut is famous because that's where all the journalist died.

I wanted desperately to you know be amongst those turn left to get to know people and to play some kind of a roll.

As a child you saying you want to be someone someone else and so I had this idea that find correspondence were you know cameras and adventurous and could hang out with you know machine wielding Militia guys and get stories and I always loved writing.

I think I was probably somewhere inspired by that not consciously but I think I was definitely inspired by that I think also if you you know if you grow up during term times you develop a need to understand.

What's going out on around you and what is driving the turmoil and I think that was another factor.

What was your journey to the US how did you end up there? I went to college in in the US and given that the war.

Ended I decided to stay so I got a better job at luckily.

I got a job at Forbes Magazine so how did you get up to write to them speculatively? Give me a job.

I didn't write to them speculatively.

I did a masters at Columbia University and forms used to recruit at at Columbia I wrote to them knowing that there was a possibility that I would get an interview.

They were interested in my background the fact that I spoke several languages.

How long are you at 4? I was at Forbes I think for 4 years and then do the ft.

Come calling after that no actually the way I joined the ft is another interesting story to tell this is a case where I wrote to human resources the dreaded HR department so I wrote To Whom It

I don't know anyone at the ft, but I've been reading the ft since I wasn't me to and so I love DFT and when I am with to London for personal reasons.

Why was a business journalist so that was an obvious place for me to apply but I didn't know anyone and I just wrote whom it may concern in a couple of weeks later.

I get a response because whoever so this received my letter in HR scented to think either the deputy editor of the foreign editor at the time and I was called in for an interview and you obviously did well in an interview because they hired you.

I think you know timing is everything as well.

You write the letter.

I did write the letter, but I think there was also an opportunity there.

It was a time when they were looking for.

A new North Africa correspondent and it was a time of war and ulterior ulterior was a big story because they were scheduling that they have to write a lot about it and you know I was there at the right time lucky perhaps but clearly background and you know my experience still limited experience was interesting so when you covered North Africa WWII second today or would you just travel a lot and then be based work in terms of the logistics? I travelled there a lot but you couldn't be based on anterior the time.

It was extremely dangerous and London to be a good place to base yourself and travel there.

So what was the next opportunity that came calling within the ft a year or so I became Middle East

That must have been something you relish giving out.

What was going on at the time absolutely it was like you know my dream job and it came more available more quickly than I had anticipated I put spirit and and I got it.

I know I was I was given a chance to the cover of the few years after that the the Middle East editor at the time move to another job and I was only acting Middle East editor someone who was expected to take on the job at six months or a year later and then I stayed much longer in mideast editor than people do at the ft.

We rotate on lots of every three or 4 years some of them even every 2-years.

And did you enjoy the role as editor because brighter than you were a writer journalist correspondent.

You're out in the field.

You are writing this.

I swear this is more managerial.

It's that extra level of responsibility.

Yes absolutely I I haven't really done much management but before ft when you are a week.

What we called regional specialist.

You're still a reporter.

You're still travelling.

You're still writing but you are also helping others in your team.

You're disgusting stories.

You're suggesting stories at times.

You are also editing some of the stories, but you're really the the news editor.

So there are other news editors who who will do the daily editing so was it quite strategic in the in that you were.

Inside of long form articles long-term initiatives at what level of the job I think of it more as developing people develop correspondence and making sure that you get the best out of them and also trying to get them to the level that you think they can you think they can reach cos sometimes correspondence petrol younger correspondence make things that they can't do this story.

This is too big for them.

So you have to give them the confidence and the next rung up the ladder for you after you've moved on from Middle East editor was to become foreign editor.

Yes and there it was a more managerial job.

I was still doing some writing but I was in charge of the foreign network and Lauren from the UK as lens.

Yes, I'm from the UK live 1-month.

Play is another man's exclave and Africa and I think I'd learn a lot in in that job because it's supposed me too much much broader reach and expose me to European stories and to all our European Bureaus and these are these tend to be bigger with more senior correspondence particularly as so it wasn't it was a new challenge and I I enjoyed it a lot and I learnt from it a lot and then moving on to your role as deputy editor.

What does that? What is a typical week for you? I like to joke that I do everything that the editor doesn't want to do but luckily I also sometimes get to do things that the editor.

Like to do traveller, you know representing the editor at recently for instance.

I was a New York for a for a party to introduce our new US managing editor, but my typical week will be some editing conference morning conference leader conference afternoon conference if the Editors is not around busy with obviously with medium as Lionel came on last year and it went down very well.

We've got one as well and we've had any Andrew edgecliffe-johnson, because that's how I know in real life.


We had we had a ton of really good ftc.

UFC people on a good self, so you mention that you do the stuff that when he's when he's not there all the stuff behind the door doesn't want to do but

Are you based in London how often do you travel and what is the date today then? Is it more managerial? I am based in London more than I then I used to be yes, so I'm more often in London and I think the job is a combination of editorial management so thinking about it seems thinking about stories thinking about who should do what and how can we produce the highest quality journalism that we like to produce that we do produce an hour on a daily basis.

It's also managing people and that is that is something that you don't want to contempt for people having had to manage them for many years is that I'm kidding I'm kidding.

People so it's a combination of people management and editorial management so managing stories as well as managing people I also sometimes have my own projects I do for an I'm responsible for the seasonal appeal that the ft does I'm now developing a new product that will that will come out certain.

I mean I was about to say do you have to worry about journeys been replaced by robots and it's a semi Joe because actually there are some box now instead of writing technical data driven reporting like sports results like financial results.

It is this a few and a few other people are in The Newsroom do you think they're going to be replaced no one at the remaining journey having to work harder for less pay or do you think robots algorithms are going to start to take over some of these automated reporting I think.

We maybe you just say to wear commoditize news is done by robots, but if we want people to pay for a journalism.

It's not they're not going to pay for commoditize news.

They will original reporting they will pay for Great writing they will pay for interviews and insights and intelligent commentary.

I don't think you will ever reach a state where a robot will be able to write even 10% of Martin Wilfrid's so no I don't worry about what is a story about robots and robots.

Will do the job market in general.

That's one of the Themes that we were Focus FT but better when it comes to around journalist know you're part of a new initiative to take the ft on stage with a live theatrical experience.

Getting writers to bring the processor live in in front of an audience must be a different type of challenge tell us about that well.

That was a one-off.

We all enjoyed it so much.

I hope they will get the opportunity to do it again.

I think it was and I'll be doing more of that but representing the ft.

But it won't be an FT event I think it's really important to explore different types of of journalism today on stage and ft alphaville had an F TV show with this brilliant group of journalists at the ft did underground and it was a great success.

So I think you know we do videos now.

We do different forms of ID

Is we do podcasts and you know we do festivals with the ft festival.

Is is a huge success and I think they're just something that we should explore the now has 1 million subscribers which is incredible achievement.

So it won't send your booking the trend of of the journalism brands coming under financial pressure as never before you consider yourself to be to be quite lucky that your audience is affluent and exclusively interested in your content.

I don't consider ourselves lucky.

I consider ourselves clever strategic and we were head of ahead of the trend and we understood that people will pay for quality journalism.

I think that the model that that DFT developed was the right model developed before others and it is proving.

Proved that it will be successful.

This is not to say that you know we don't realise that we are in a tough business.

Of course this is an extremely tough business and we have to keep that in mind but having made the leap from a business model that is focused solely on and rising to a very successful subscription model.

I think that we have insured against the future in a competition.

I mean I remember growing up BBC One Would compete with ITV I've had Murray sitting in that chair the editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal are they competitors in a sense because I would never cancel my FT subscription to subscribe to the journal how I have both I suppose it's it when I was thinking about this recently when Disney launching their own streaming service.

I'm not going to cancel my Netflix I'm just going to subscribe to both.

Did you have?

Sense of course we have competition we have competition for stories we have competition for Talent but our competition is not I mean you know in the markets.

We have different types of competition butt competition Bloomberg desert and extend the new of times even you know when it comes to writing about the world.

You know how many other foreign correspondence.

Do you think about the New York Times I think competition is good you want to have complete and you want your reporters to be thinking about the competition because that drives them and I still think I know that some people think of scoops is long gone because because Coops don't last long but I think that's groups are still very important and I'm always encouraging.

To be first visit as a consumer of a lot of Media is I subscribe to lots of email newsletters and lot of the news is that I know it before I even open the email one of the things that's guaranteed to make something is if it's a genuine eyebrow.

Razor is an actual school, but it's actually news to me that you are the one of the best aspects of your job that you enjoy the most and one of the challenges.

I enjoy being part of a team that is deciding what we should we should run I enjoyed thinking about ideas about how to take how to take stories I still enjoy writing and I also enjoy managing people one thing that I also do in in my job is to also think strategically.

About the future of the ft about the future of The Newsroom about whether we you know we have the right balance and the right I happen to have an editor who is who consults a lot and likes to talk about ideas and really still enjoys a journalist.

I mean we often laugh that he's that still the chief reporter when I met line recently to do the podcast it was full of questions about me and it in a really cute as well.

Could tell he was a journalist because that sense of curiosity that a lot team involved his team and his team and so you know we are several of us or closely involved in.

Of course he always has the last word but he does like to consult and he likes to discuss and so you get to be involved in the pic the Sunni won't have the last word cos soon he won't be there.

I really do you know we know he's going but we don't know anything more than presumably I mean discretion is the better part of Valour so it'll be rude of me to ask whether you have any inside Intel Intel you is that you know I see Lionel almost every day and I have really seen him as energetic as full of ideas about you know the future, so I have no idea what you're talking about very well and let me try one of the time then when you look at the Guardian you see if email read it in the form of the cast of Ireland designed by you that the next to the ftc will be a woman.

I think that's a really good tripod.

Slippery politicians and he asks the questions on three times and then they can have give up.

I'll just keep asking the same question I was leaving now, but it must be quite an interesting space centre DFT finds itself quite apart from me the individual person who the editor is like you say you thinking about the future of the ft.

It is there going to be a time when the print edition is it is it going to be much more internationalised that you're obviously talking about podcast the various other things.

What is the future for the FTSE I can talk about a couple of things and one is the us because we're in the process of launching their dad and and the other is audio.

We are expanding and audio as well, so I think you.

If you're looking for a year ahead of those are two elements of the growth strategy that you'll hear more about so that people will be taking the fts.

Journalism and listening to it more than reading it are increasingly listening to it.

Yeah, I think listening to it, but also they'll be something that is tailored to to audio as well and you're a kind of diversity champion within the ft news remain.

Are you happy with the diversity at the moment? So I want to two hats and Away one is that I was on a company white committee that looked at how to attract more women leaders we discovered that we have very few women leaders and so we've worked hard on that in editorial.

We now have what we call the

Janet bots that looks at the number of pictures of women on our homepage and if it goes below a certain minimum event the news editors are alerted with also joined the 50-50 project that was launched by the BBC or death creditors are so much more aware today of the need to include female voices in stories.

There are reporters think a lot more about quoting women and that I think has been an important development there still a long way to go but the awareness is now there and I think that's a really stab in terms of diversity within the ft.

I think that is also coming from from the board and I've certainly been.

Involved in in various initiatives and we're not satisfied, but we have made progress especially when it comes to promoting women and ensuring that more women in senior roles we still have a lot to do as you know Lionel would tell you but it's a journey and we take very seriously what advice would you give to an ambitious person listening to this podcast starting out in their career in journalism inspired by the success and ultimately wants to either be deputy editor of the Sunday whatever we get them.

I would tell any aspiring journalist that be in this business if you're passionate about it.

This is a job that does require passion it requires dedication you have to love it.

You absolutely have to love it and you have to love story telling.

You have to be curious you have to want to learn about the world you want to travel and Discover and you have to put in the time none of it comes easy, but if you put in the time and the effort then you don't you will make it in this business even at a time when this is a very tough business and tough of business.

Is it I mean not necessarily with your ft Hat On But just as a journalist and as an editor journalism seems to be under fire as never before trump decrying fake news few people use rooms at newspapers if you were never do you think that journalism can recover from this it is it is it a challenge that could finish journalism off or do you think this is that your rebound? I think you can think of it both ways in in Once In One Sense the spread of fake news the lack of trust in.

Institutions in authority the denunciations of expert advice all of this could discourage young people from from becoming turn list on the other hand and that's how I think about it.

I think it should inspire them to become tennis.

It should inspire them to want to learn the truth and tell the truth and you know if you look in the US for example some of the mainstream media has done very well on the back of the trump presidency.

There is a thirst there is a desire to be informed edit at a time when people are telling so many lies.

I think that young people should be inspired to go into turn the Sunday should be inspired.

To be telling discovering the real facts and telling the facts about their husband today a sort of rebirth of fact-checking at the beginning of my career when I joined 4.4 as a as a reporter at but you are a fact checker.

You know they give you the opportunity to ride but you are a fact checker and that's something that I think has been has been lost so I think I would encourage young people to think about this profession and to enter the profession and to fight to be a journalist.

It's been a hugely interesting conversation.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you a right angles podcast in association with big things Media

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