Allister Heath: My Life In Media

'My priority is to make The Business a great success, ensure we scoop the Sunday papers on the big stories'
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The Independent Online

As of today, Allister Heath takes over the editorship of The Business, the weekly finance magazine owned by the Barclay brothers, the businessmen who own The Daily Telegraph. Until now, the magazine has been edited by Andrew Neil, who developed it from The Sunday Business newspaper and who remains editor-in-chief. Heath, aged 29, is also an associate editor of The Spectator. His scoops include revealing how Germany's tax burden is set to overtake Britain's, and the contents of the Conservative Party's Forsyth Commission report, which called for £21bn in tax cuts.

What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I'm hopelessly addicted to news and current affairs, and have an opinion on everything, so journalism was the obvious choice.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get and did you read it?

I grew up in France in an unusually media-less household, with the exception of my father's subscription to The Economist. I fell in love with that publication from the age of 13 and always read it cover to cover. Our copy used to turn up in the post on a Saturday and my weekend would be ruined if it was late and I had to wait until Monday.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

My parents didn't own a television, but I listened to the World Service, as well as to French radio.

Describe your job.

I edit The Business, the only weekly business news magazine in Britain. My aim is to build it into Britain's answer to America's BusinessWeek, Fortune or Forbes. This is an incredibly exciting project.

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

I first turn to Sky News and CNBC, while simultaneously scanning the Telegraph and Wall Street Journal websites. I then read several blogs and websites, including Guido Fawkes, Daniel Finkelstein and the Drudge Report, before moving to the newspapers. I start with the Sun, turn to the Daily Mail, and then The Guardian, Times, Independent, Telegraph, FT, International Herald Tribune and, last but not least, the Wall Street Journal Europe. I also check the American and French papers online.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I constantly scan a dozen British and American websites, keep Sky News on in the background, consult Bloomberg and make sure that I keep abreast of the Evening Standard's various editions.

What is the best thing about your job?

I get paid to do something that I love.

And the worst?

Rarely having the opportunity to write anything longer than 2,000 words, or spending more than a few hours on any single article.

How do you feel you influence the media?

This happens whenever we publish an exclusive news story or agenda-setting feature which is then followed up by the rest of the media.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

There are two: becoming associate editor of The Spectator and now also being given the opportunity to edit The Business.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

Being phoned up by an editor asking for copy five minutes before deadline, when I was utterly unaware I was supposed to be filing, because of a misunderstanding. Similar catastrophes have happened to me twice in the past five years; I still have nightmares about them.

At home, what do you tune in to?

I listen to the Today programme, which is as indispensable as it is infuriating. I hop between every 24-hour TV news channel, from Fox News to Al-Jazeera.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, the Mail on Sunday and the News of the World. My two favourite magazines are The Business and The Spectator, but I like Prospect and The Economist in Britain, and Reason, the Weekly Standard, National Review and City Journal in America.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire.

At the moment my only priority is to make The Business a great success, ensure we scoop the Sunday papers on the big stories, and provide our readers with analysis, comment and ideas that change the way they think about business and investment opportunities.

If you didn't work in the media what would you do?

I would probably have started off as an economics lecturer and then, disgusted by the poor pay, sought out refuge in the City.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, who understands his readers incredibly well. The Daily Telegraph's Andrew Pierce is an astonishing story-breaking machine, and Stephen Pollard is a beautiful and hugely prolific writer.

The CV

1995 Moves to Britain after growing up and attending school in France

1998 Graduates from the London School of Economics

2000 Completes MPhil degree in economics from Hertford College, Oxford

2002 Joins The Business as economics correspondent

2005 Promoted to deputy editor of The Business

2006 Appointed associate editor of The Spectator

2007 Becomes editor of The Business