In this interview, John Ridding, the CEO of the Financial Times and WES2021 speaker, discusses his career highs, fake news and Margaret Atwood novels.
1. What has been the highlight of your career?
My FT career has been so varied that there are too many highlights to cover them all here – being a foreign correspondent in Seoul, Paris and Hong Kong/China provided unique experiences, encounters and interviews – including an unforgettable reporting trip to the “hermit kingdom” of North Korea. On the business side, reaching an all-time high of one million paying subscribers was a major moment.
2. What major threats/opportunities do you foresee for the media industry?
News media has rarely, if ever, been so precarious. Fake news, the battle for attention, digital disruption all pose major threats. At the same time, though there is huge opportunity in providing reliable news and analysis, investigative reporting and embracing the innovations enabled by digital media.
3. Which current affairs story are you most interested in at the moment?
The rise of big tech is unprecedented and fascinating – and has huge social and economic implications that need addressing. I’ve also been glued to the Wirecard story – a fascinating saga in itself, but also a reminder of the importance of dogged and determined investigative reporting.
4. What was the last book you read that made a lasting impression and why?
The Testaments – for so many reasons. Margaret Atwood writes brilliantly, and there are always lessons, parallels and warnings in well-conceived dystopias. Even if the setting is grim, the ability to travel via the pages of a good book is stimulating – especially during lockdown. A good ending (spoiler alert) is also welcome…
5. What advice would you give to a student interested in becoming a CEO one day?
I would advise against focussing on a job title! Focus instead on a role or mission that excites and motivates you. Leadership and its responsibilities, satisfactions (and challenges!) comes in many roles that don’t have the CEO acronym.