Working for Reuters
Friday 10 April 2015
Reuters people past and present have been discussing what’s so special (and no longer so special) about working for Reuters. A spirited online debate joined by dozens of people, chiefly in the United States, was prompted by a Facebook posting that noted the continuing exodus of talent and queried not why they go but why others stay.
They are questions that must also have occurred to Reuters chief executive Andrew Rashbass who is leaving after less than two years in the job of running the business side of the news agency. He will go at the end of this month although he will not start his next job as executive chairman of Euromoney until October. His sudden exit inevitably raised speculation as to the reason. No one seemed to have seen it coming but several past and present Reuters journalists have suggested he may have been frustrated at being blocked from carrying out changes hinted at by his public pronouncements but never carried through. These appeared to focus on the need to return Reuters to its money-making roots of hard-nosed market and financial reporting rather than the long-form articles in pursuit of journalism prizes long favoured by editor-in-chief Stephen Adler and his other former Wall Street Journal managers, who were brought in after the Thomson takeover. Adler himself has recently bemoaned the loss of several major timings on key financial news and demanded an improvement in attention to speed - seen as an ironic change of heart by many.
James Smith, chief executive of Reuters’ parent Thomson Reuters, told staff he had asked Adler to assume interim responsibility for the agency’s news business while a new chief executive is head-hunted.
Rashbass was hired from The Economist in July 2013. His arrival was preceded by a glowing reputation for driving the weekly newspaper’s growth in both print and digital formats. Within weeks he scrapped an ambitious and costly but struggling project to develop an online news operation aimed at consumers. Several executives left the company as a result. Since then, however, he seems to have made few major changes.
Adler, soon to be back where he was before Rashbass came on board - running both the business and editorial sides of Reuters - sees his immediate goal as continuing to make Reuters commercially and editorially stronger - “and a better place to work”.
That’s a phrase that must have struck a chord with many of those following the social media discussion, which tapped into a well of nostalgia for a place that evokes many positive opinions. The conclusion they agreed is that what made Reuters so special was all about the people - those “talented, smart, funny people I had the good fortune to work with there” as one person observed. Some noted that one of the greatest things about Reuters was the skills it taught, which were in high demand elsewhere.
There were many suggestions that things have changed, however.
“For the first 15 years of my employment at Reuters I felt lucky every day to work with such talented people and have so many amazing opportunities to tell good stories,” wrote a person who still works for Reuters. “Now every day is an exercise in keeping my sanity. It is soul crushing. It does help to know that I'm not alone though. At least I know I'm not crazy.”
Another said: “The state of the operation today does at times sadden me, but I do have eternal hopes for it and that those who continue to toil every day for breaking news and writing important stories are able to influence the leadership to right the ship…”
Another: “I always felt that the people were better than the organization in which we worked; the organization was dysfunctional, stifling, and maddening, though when you went on a story, sometimes the organization supported you and left the journalists to do what they did best and what they loved to do: report and write. It was that passion and craving for the story that I saw all around me that I loved and the common ground it created for journalists from all over the world who gathered at Reuters. That lesson never leaves me and I crave it today with the people I work with - and yes there are many outside of Reuters.”
“Very simply, Reuters was the best school for journalism that ever existed,” another contributor wrote. “I left for Bloomberg and it was like leaving Special Forces and going to work in the kitchen of another army. The people I got to learn from, the well of knowledge built over 150 years, and the sense of camaraderie are irreplaceable. Those who stay - we outside are all a bit envious. But we know what you don't - that what was is what's gone. And what's left isn't the well from which we drank.”
Finally: “The interest in The Baron and the Reuters Society attests to the loyalty so many of us feel to the place despite how crazy-making it always was. Nevertheless, having spent 14 years at Reuters and three months at Bloomberg, I find it pretty depressing that Bloomberg is ‘winning’ when the depth and breadth of both writing and reporting at Reuters is - or at least was - so much deeper. Unlike Bloomberg, Reuters has news gathering baked into its DNA, but at least since the Thomson takeover, if not before, it also seems to have mismanagement and a really bad C-suite as part of its genetic heritage. Otherwise why let so many, many talented people walk, or be pushed, out the door? Is that really the only way to survive?” ■
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