The Most Powerful Woman in Newspapers?: As The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal bash each other, the Financial Times, led by its sharp, glamorous new U.S. editor, Gillian Tett, intends to become a status symbol of American business. "I brought the English weather with me," bemoans Gillian Tett, the new U.S. managing editor for the Financial Times, as she steps into the Peninsula Fives restaurant in Manhattan last Wednesday morning, dressed in a fuchsia raincoat accompanied by one of those umbrellas large enough to cover the width of a New York City sidewalk. She's a few minutes late for our interview, which can be easily forgiven: She'd only arrived stateside two days prior, and her meeting with me was wedged in between an appearance on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann the night before, a day filled with internal meetings on the FT's strategic direction, a jaunt down to Wall Street to report out a column due by the end of the week, and preparations for a speech.
The publicity is all part of a months-long coming-out party here in the States for Tett, whose early outing of the credit-derivatives pyramid scheme that crippled the global financial markets has given her something of a celebrity moment. Or at least as much of a celebrity moment as a financial journalist can have. The horrible financial climate has been great for Tett, who has given the FT the authoritative voice documentating the global economic meltdown, while her camera-ready looks have made her the go-to journalist for television outlets across the globe. In ascending to the highest U.S. editorial position at the Financial Times, Tett has managed to make the august, salmon-hued broadsheet two things never identified with it before: trendy and sexy.
“You have to understand money to understand the world.”
"The FT has become a sort of status symbol, people want to show off that they read it," says Reed Phillips, managing partner of boutique media advisory firm DeSilva & Phillips. "They'd rather leave the FT out on the coffee table than The Wall Street Journal."
"Status symbol" isn't a word recently associated with the newspaper industry, but the FT has been an anomaly. Long thought of as a British newspaper, the FT has quadrupled its circulation in the U.S.... Evidence to support the FT's rising prominence can be found in, of all places, emails from Goldman Sachs' suddenly infamous Fabrice "Fabulous Fab" Tourre, recently unearthed by the SEC. "Darling, you should take a look at this article..very insightful..more and more leverage in the system," Tourre, the executive who helped design the dubious financial product that sits at the center of the charges against his bank, wrote to one of his girlfriends. The article "Fab" was referencing—"The Unease bubbling in today's brave new financial world"—came from the FT and carried Tett's byline.
But unlike other business journalists who have gained a modicum of fame outside of Wall Street such as The New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin or CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, Tett, who talks with both her hands and a lisp, doesn't covet the attention. She dismisses honors, like being named Journalist of the Year by the British press in 2009 and winning the Spear's Award for Financial Book of the Year for Fool's Gold, as "guilt awards" bestowed on her by a discredited media trying to clear its collective conscience for missing the financial crisis' warning signs...
Let me just say that anyone who read Gillian Tett because she thinks that it is the way to appear high-status is as sadly misinformed as anyone who watches Maria Bartiromo or reads Andrew Ross Sorkin expecting--no, I'm not going to go there.
I will go here: It's very rare that I read something by Gillian Tett or her colleagues that I don't learn something. And it's very, very rare that I read something and am told something that turns out to be wrong. And given what my other information sources are, that's a very high bar for them to clear. And the FT does it, every day.
Simply the best newspaper for me in all the world. Just saying.