by James Billot
Tuesday, 12
November 2019

Lionel Barber: what the FT got wrong on populism

Audio: the retiring editor says his paper has learned from its past mistakes
by James Billot

After 14 years at the helm, Lionel Barber has announced that he was stepping down as editor of the Financial Times. In a candid interview with the BBC World at One, Barber reflects on a range of issues, including his paper’s failure to spot the rise of populism in the UK, the perils of being too ‘metropolitan’, and how journalists can navigate through an increasingly polarised landscape. Have a listen…


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“Well I think we did frankly miss, to a degree — not completely — we missed the rise of populism in Britain and we probably underestimated it. We were too metropolitan and I think we’ve adjusted to that. I mean obviously we are a paper built around the city of London and we’re global, but we have an obligation to understand our country in all its aspects and it’s gone through wrenching change partly as a result of the financial crisis so I think that’s one thing.

“And then I worry about, you know this is the business we are in, how journalists deal with this age of polarisation where people are very entrenched in their views and how do you inform in a way that people respect you and they don’t just denounce you because they put you in a particular ideological pocket? It’s not just remain and leave. Its also questions of inequality. You’ve got to be at the front and centre of these questions and the debate and be trusted and then you’ll be fine. Well, At least you’ll survive and thrive. For the others who stick in the muddled middle – they’ve got big challenges.”

Listen to the full interview on BBC iPlayer.

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