Lionel Barber: My Life in Media

'My team sets the news agenda for decision-makers in politics, business and finance around the world'
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The Independent Online

Lionel Barber, 52, is the editor of the Financial Times. He has lived in Washington, Brussels, London and New York during his 20-year career at the publication, covering the end of the Cold War, the first Gulf War and several US presidential campaigns. He also briefed George W Bush ahead of his first visit to Europe as president. Fluent in French and German, he has appeared on Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, American and British television and has lectured widely at universities on US Foreign Policy and transatlantic relations. He lives in London with his wife Victoria and two children.

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

My father was a journalist for 50 years in Leeds and Fleet Street. I thought about a career in business to show I could do something different, but the reaction among prospective employers was, shall we say, underwhelming. Then The Scotsman gave me (an Englishman) my first big break.

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

There were always plenty of newspapers in the house. The Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail were all regular fixtures on the coffee table. I used to enjoy reading The Times editorial pages and the Daily Mail sports pages.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

My favourite TV programme was The Man from UNCLE; radio was Pick of the Pops with Alan Freeman every Sunday evening. Plus I never missed Test Match Special.

Describe your job?

A combination of writer/editor/interviewer/manager/motivator/coach/fly half.

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

FT.com on my BlackBerry, of course.

Do you consult any media sources during the day?

I consult nytimes.com, slate.com, wsj.com and MediaGuardian. Plus bbc.co.uk for the latest sports news.

What is the best thing about your job?

I walk into the office at Southwark Bridge every morning and I have no idea what's going to happen.

And the worst?

Reading a poor headline or story after first edition.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Launching the new newsroom at the Financial Times. All our reporters and editors now work seamlessly in print and online. This integration has transformed the way we work. I believe this is vital to the success and growth of newspapers.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

Keeping Vice President George H W Bush's plane waiting on the tarmac in 1988. I was covering his campaign in the Chicago suburbs and the press bus left without me. A Chicago cop drove me at 70mph to the airport and I arrived minutes before take-off to jeers and cheers from the travelling press corps.

How do you feel you influence the media?

My team sets the news agenda for decision-makers in politics, business and finance around the world. That's quite an influence.

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

The Sunday Times, Observer and Mail on Sunday. I also enjoy reading Prospect magazine. Plus the sections of FT Weekend that I didn't get a chance to finish on Saturday. Our newspaper is on newsstands all weekend.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Mark Zuckerberg of the social networking site Facebook. He is cool, understated, and possessed of a brilliant business focus and an understanding of the power of human vanity.

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

The chance to interview the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl in German.

What would you do if you didn't work in the media?

Private detective.

The CV

1978: Joins The Scotsman as a reporter

1981: Moves to The Sunday Times as a business correspondent after being named Young Journalist of the Year

1985: Co-writes a history of Reuters, The Price of Truth, while Laurence Stern fellow at The Washington Post

1986: Joins the FT in the US, as Washington correspondent and US editor

1992: Back to Europe to become the Brussels bureau chief

1998: Appointed the FT's news editor

2000: Edits the Financial Times' Continental European edition for two years before returning to the US as managing editor of the US edition

2005: Returns to London again to become the editor of the Financial Times

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