Nick Moore - Reuters trailblazer
Monday 3 May 2021
Nick Moore was an architect of a new type of wire reporting that put Reuters news at the centre of the global economy and made it a fortune - news for financial markets. As markets deregulated and Reuters moved from politics and general into financial news to feed its Monitor screen, Nick was a trailblazer for the Reuters “econ” file. His reputation as a top-notch front-line political reporter brought great credibility to what some Reuters old-schoolers saw as a lesser art.
The 1979 Iranian revolution had triggered a second oil shock. In early 1980 Nick was asked to run the energy file. Oil meant OPEC. At OPEC, Nick was in his element. Across 15 years running the Reuters team, Nick was the single most influential reporter on the affairs of the quarrelsome cartel that propped up global crude prices.
“The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries was holding the world to ransom,” Nick wrote. “OPEC was cast as the croupier, throwing the dice in the electronic casino of a global exchange.”
OPEC was a hugely challenging and competitive story. OPEC ministers represented bickering, sometimes warring, Middle East neighbours who often had only one thing in common - maximising their oil revenues. Each preferred to tell the story their way. Nick loved it. His assignment just before taking on OPEC was up the Khyber Pass where the Red Army had dug in for the invasion of Afghanistan. “I’d worked for Reuters since 1964 but no story could prepare an agency reporter for an OPEC meeting,” he wrote.
One of his favourite OPEC anecdotes - he had many - revolved around a contentious meeting in Bali in December 1980 when, in the days before walkie talkies or mobile phones, Nick raced a competitor on bicycles to report a news flash from Saudi oil minister Zaki Yamani. Reporting Yamani, dubbed “Shake Your Money” by The Sun tabloid, was great fun.
Demonised by the western press as oil prices soared, “anyone less like a demon than Yamani was hard to imagine,” said Nick. “For civility to a correspondent, if he knew you, I’d set him alongside the impeccably courteous Muhammad Ali.”
The Saudis usually held the whip-hand at what Nick liked to call the “fractious cartel.” He designed for the publicity-shy Saudis an attribution for the unofficial spokesman for Yamani’s successor as oil minister. World oil markets quickly learned to react when Nick broke news from “a senior Gulf source familiar with Saudi oil policy”.
Working at OPEC with Nick was an education. His ability to frame and communicate an alert from an OPEC scrum was second to none. Written by Nick, lean and succinct, the Reuters trunk was the most trusted authority on what OPEC was up to at yet another tempestuous gathering. Barking out orders over his walkie-talkie, he demanded military standards of reporting discipline. Never let your guard down. And while he could match all-comers in the bar, he was always the first back in front of the screen the next morning. Living on his nerves and a diet in the Reuters bunker, Vienna Intercontinental hotel suite 401, of cigarettes and sugar lumps.
On occasion, as everyone else began to relax at the end of a meeting, Nick would rally the troops to prepare for the possible repeat, as he saw it, of Carlos the Jackal’s 1975 OPEC raid. “A, YDB, G” Nick would incant ad nauseum - the address codes for a major news alert.
Nick reported the first Gulf War in 1990-1991, breaking the news that the Saudis had prepared enough spare capacity to prevent shortages and another oil price spike. A year later he was on the road in Saudi Arabia with the senior Gulf source familiar with Saudi oil policy. “We pulled in at a café for some coffee during a sandstorm and it was time to say that I was too old now to do OPEC.”
Nick had set the standard for reporting on one of the biggest economic stories of a generation. In the days before anyone used the word “mentor” he had mentored his successors, myself included, and any number of reporters and editors. In 2011, filing a scoop from Samia Nakhoul in Libya on the capture and killing of Muammar Gaddafi, Peter Millership says he took a deep breath and remembered Nick’s tuition. Another winning Reuters headline. ■