Our latest ‘Meet the Editor’ event welcomed Iain Dey, Business Editor of the Sunday Times, to Pagefield. Up for discussion were a myriad of issues such as Brexit, fake news, the growing importance of the technology sector within the wider world of business, and the unique style and routine involved in being the Editor of one of the UK’s most influential business sections. Here are five things we learned:
1. The benefits of ‘fake news’
2017’s favourite buzzword has been a boon for Iain. He blames the increase in ‘fake news’ (more accurately dubbed ‘fake’) on social media and the increase in louder, but often inaccurate digital news outlets. For Iain and The Sunday Times, it has had a somewhat positive outcome, with an increase in people returning to their news and other trusted broadsheet outlets, where the founding principles of credible journalism still remain. This is substantiated by a 3% year-on-year growth in the Sunday Times’ ABC readership last year.
2. Politics and business reporters in ever closer union
Iain pointed out that the best business reporters now often work in tandem with the best political reporters. He works closely with Tim Shipman, Political Editor, who Iain credits as having a strong understanding of business. These cross-desk relationships have blossomed thanks to Brexit, where politics and business often overlap (see Government’s Nissan deal).
The paper’s reporting of Brexit is grounded in “ploughing the middle path”, with stories rooted in what facts are available. This desire for a middle-ground is particularly important given the paper’s readership, which Iain believes is split 50/50 on the EU.
3. Growing importance of technology
Iain described the tech-giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple as the “robber barons of our age”, omnipresent companies that hold sway over all aspects of our lives and make a killing while doing so. Moreover, he noted that the growth and influence they hold are now of such importance that he relocated his reporter Danny Fortson to become the business section’s West Coast Correspondent. It’s now Danny’s job to be close to San Francisco’s tech elite and uncover Silicon Valley’s secrets.
He also stressed the importance of technology coverage in appealing to younger readers, who are often much more familiar with the products and services these businesses offer. That said he also recognises the importance for older generations, who often need it to understand the business of technology, such as why Snapchat’s initial public offering was being valued at $25bn.
4. Keeping news diverse
Iain believes news outlets are too London-centric. He makes a concerted effort not to flood the paper with ‘London Start–ups’ and challenges his reporters to cover successful businesses nationwide.
He also revealed that he would love the ‘Business Profile’ section to be more diverse, however it is hamstrung by the paucity of women in senior roles. Iain hopes this will change soon.
5. The unique working pattern of the Sunday Times
Iain outlined how his usual working week as Business Editor differs from many in the industry, as his deadlines fall late on Saturday night.
Working for a Sunday paper gives Iain increased power to shape the week’s business agenda. While daily editions are more reactive, Sunday titles have the chance to “carve their own path”. Iain’s reporters can spend weeks on exclusive stories, steeping themselves in research. His paper only has one chance per week to make an impact – it’s important they do so.