Business Editor at the BBC, Simon Jack, joined us at Pagefield this week to discuss his insights on the challenges on reporting Brexit, conflict in the political arena and the transformation of the world of work. Paul Codd provides his view.
Snappily described as ‘banking analyst-turned-broadcaster’, Jack has been with the BBC since 2003, taking on the mantle of Business Editor at the very start of 2016.
Discussing everything from the rise of populism to the loss of trust in banks, politicians, institutions and the media alike, here are five things we learned:
- Crisis, pursued by a populist
10 years on from the global financial crisis and the financial system may have survived, but the world is forever changed.
The financial crisis’ legacy of public sector austerity, a decline in real wages and a loss of faith in the institutions of politics and business is the lynchpin moment that explains much of the modern world in Jack’s view. The shadow of the crisis years is cast across everything from electoral turmoil to the rise of populism. All, in Jack’s view have their roots in the legacy of the decisions made a decade ago.
- Businesses please speak up
As a tip, Jack has three favourite business sectors for reporting, they’re cars, cars and also cars.
Apart from reflecting a bit of the inner petrol-head, for Jack the attraction of the automobile industry is that it speaks to the complexities of the modern world – it takes continents to build cars. And those interconnected supply chains could be looking a little bit tricky come March 2019.
Fundamentally, Jack wants more business leaders to tell him what they’re really thinking on Brexit. He believes the time is now for businesses to make their voices heard – on either side of the debate.
So, if you’re a business leader interested in Brexit, and ideally, but not exclusively, if that business happens to sell metal boxes with four wheels – drop Jack a line, you’ve got an audience.
- Nothing’s a 50:50 split anymore
Too much has already been written on the rise of so-called ‘alternative facts’, but a related issue that Jack sees all quality media struggling with is the balancing act, of, well, balance.
The desire to present a counterpoint or an opposing point of view, can result in unintended consequences. This can manifest itself in the presenting of issues as evenly split, when in fact the balance of evidence is firmly on one side of the argument. A 99:1 issue ends up 50:50 in Jack’s turn of phrase.
This trend, that so damaged early reporting of issues like climate change, has spread to economics and beyond. Jack sees a clear duty in combining reporting of opposing views with an objective report of on which side of the argument the majority of opinion and evidence sits.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jack sees the BBC’s Reality Check as one of its most important recent initiatives, and one he wishes to make much more of in the years ahead.
- Tell me about the world of work
Cars aside, Jack’s passion is for reporting on the transformation of the world of work – something which does and will impact all of us.
He’s not interested in the latest knick-knacks or product launches, although did mention that the BBC, like most media overlooks this when it comes to a good Apple launch.
What Jack really wants is stories with a bigger impact, those that speak to the rise of the gig-economy, changing attitudes to work, automation, entrepreneurship, the productivity puzzle and beyond.
- Sunny side up
Jack sees real reason for optimism in the UK right now. The most important economic metric in anyone’s life in his view is simple; ‘have I got a job?’, and by that measure – the UK is chuntering along nicely.
Add to that, the recent uptick in real wages and home-grown business success stories like the growth of Funding Circle and there’s real reason for optimism. Yes, businesses might currently find themselves faced with challenges associated with Brexit, but there’s good news out there. And Jack, for one, wants to hear more of it.