Reuters boss's email slip lets staff in on 'terrible quality' concerns

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The Independent Online

The global managing editor of Reuters has made a gaffe of Ratner-like proportions by describing the information group's output as "having terrible quality problems" in an email distributed throughout the group.

David Schlesinger, in a note entitled "the burning platform in content", said: "Our news is perceived as not having enough insight; our data is perceived as having terrible quality problems". He added that the group had a "web of inefficient and duplicative technology".

The email was intended for a few senior executives convened as a working group by Reuters editor-in-chief Geert Linnebank to see what shape Reuters should be in by 2010. But a technical error resulted in its appearance on the group's intranet, where it could be read by Reuters 16,000 employees. Within minutes it was replaced by a message from Mr Schlesinger saying that the email was to stimulate discussion among Mr Linnebank's management team. "I'd welcome your views on how Content should reshape itself," Mr Schlesinger added.

Mr Schlesinger told The Independent on Sunday that the email had received a "wider distribution than I'd hoped". He added: "I wanted to incite a group of colleagues to think about the future and not be complacent. I was purposely trying to be provocative."

Ironically the comments received a great deal of support within Reuters. "A lot of what he is saying is true," a senior editor said. "However, how it was expressed shows that the problems we have in our writing go right to the top."

In making inadvertent statements, Mr Schlesinger is in good company. Reuters chief executive Tom Glocer has repeatedly run into trouble. Once he described his English colleagues as the sort of people he liked to have beside him in a barroom fight. Another time he said that most of the analysts following Reuters were wasting their time.

But few can compare to Gerald Ratner who, when chairman of his own jewellery group, described his own products as "crap" and compared them unfavourably with a Marks & Spencer prawn sandwich.

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