Media Moves

FT editor Khalaf talks about long-term remote working

October 16, 2020

Posted by Mariam Ahmed

Roula Khalaf

Speaking at FT’s Future of News event, Financial Times editor Roula Khalaf has warned that long-term remote working could be “problematic” for news companies as they “have to be able to share ideas”. She says she disliked working from home and wanted to see a return to the office.

Khalaf said:

“Remote working made very little difference to the quality of the journalism and even to the communication. I think if remote working continues that could be problematic. But everyone was so mobilised and everyone was on this great story.

“Journalists – all they want is to be part of the bigger story and it was such a global story and an economic and business story so it really played to our strengths and I like to think we did very well.”

Talking about the disadvantages of remote working, she says:

“I think that we really underestimate what we lose from not being in the office because we are a creative industry – we need to be talking to each other. We publish every second.

“We have to be able to share ideas and it’s really about what you don’t know that you don’t know so it’s about the accidental encounter.”

Khalaf further revealed that her darkest moment of the pandemic came early on when she was shown three scenarios of how the business could be affected due to the virus. She said she was told “it would be better to expect the third scenario, act immediately rather than wait and see how things go”.

She recalls:

“I think this is a feature of the way the FT is run, which is we would always rather take significant measures early in order to make sure we don’t have to keep adding measures as the situation develops.

“So in retrospect my darkest hour was probably a good hour because it hasn’t panned out to be as bad as we expected so we were able to relax once we had announced some measures.”

Thus, FT scaled back on its spending on non-staff contributors, made pay cuts for certain staff and implemented some voluntary measures such as part-time working.

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