My Life In Media: Andrew Gowers


Andrew Gowers, 47, is editor of the 'Financial Times'. A failed student theatre director, he stumbled into journalism at university where he turned the newspaper into a "screaming tabloid". A self-confessed "iPod junkie", he recently sold the vinyl collection in his loft and bought all of his records on digital format. He likes tennis, film, food and wine, and is married with two young children.

Andrew Gowers, 47, is editor of the 'Financial Times'. A failed student theatre director, he stumbled into journalism at university where he turned the newspaper into a "screaming tabloid". A self-confessed "iPod junkie", he recently sold the vinyl collection in his loft and bought all of his records on digital format. He likes tennis, film, food and wine, and is married with two young children.

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

My father, who was a journalist, and my discovery at school that I enjoyed writing. I was drawn to editing the school magazine, pretentious guff with little factual journalism and published a term late. I then had this fantasy that I was going into the theatre, and during my first term at university directed Pinter's The Lover. When I realised I wasn't any good I fell into the student newspaper, Stop Press With Varsity. We turned it into a screaming tabloid and covered some good stories.

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

The Guardian, and yes, I did. My parents were - and are - classic middle-class lefties.

And what were you favourite TV and radio programmes?

The Old Grey Whistle Test, I'm a freak for contemporary music. I spent my teens listening to pirate radio - John Peel was an absolute must.

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

Today. It's a very helpful start to the day.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

Principally the FT's website FT.com, but also CNN and BBC News 24.

What is the best thing about your job?

The fantastic people I get to work with, the best collection of journalists in the English language in the world. We have a strong culture of teamwork.

And the worst?

Dealing with the media and with the business climate when all the categories of advertising on which the business press depends had gone into deep freeze. My priority was to make sure the worst thing about my job didn't impact on the best thing about it.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Financial Times Deutschland, a successful German-language daily newspaper that I founded from scratch, which has just celebrated its fifth birthday. Every journalist's dream is to start a new newspaper, but nobody had ever done it before in a different country and a different language to their mother tongue. Lots of people were interested in pissing on it from a great height.

And what's been your most embarrassing moment?

The first issue of FTD, which had a lead story that was wrong - an interview got rewritten about 17 times and bent out of shape.

At home, what do you tune in to?

The News at 10pm, Question Time and not much else; I'm not a fan of terrestrial TV. I'm a member of a DVD library and recently saw The Aviator, which I thought was fantastic. I listen to a lot of music - everything from the Rolling Stones to Snow Patrol.

Which Sunday paper do you read? And do you have a favourite magazine?

I leaf through most of the Sundays. I read the business sections, Matt D'Ancona in The Sunday Telegraph, Andrew Rawnsley, Will Hutton - I'm very selective. My favourite magazine is The New Yorker.

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

To make the FT the unchallenged, leading global business newspaper. The Wall Street Journal is on the retreat whereas we're ascendant, and The New York Times's International Herald Tribune doesn't have such a strong franchise. I think we have every chance.

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

Try for serious riches, although I'd probably find anything else much more boring than what I'm doing now.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Michael Bloomberg, for establishing a fantastic financial information business from nowhere and for giving the established players such as Reuters a run for their money - and the scare of their life.

CV

1979: Wins student journalist of the year award at Cambridge's Stop Press with Varsity.

1980: Joins the Reuters graduate training course straight from Cambridge, working in their London, Brussels and Zurich bureaux.

1983: Joins the FT's foreign staff. Promotions see him rise as features editor, foreign editor and deputy editor. His biography of Yasser Arafat is published in 1990.

1997: Appointed acting editor.

1998: Appointed editor-in-chief of Financial Times Deutschland, a German daily business paper launched in February 2000. From "a couple of dingy offices in a dingy part of Hamburg", recruits a team of 150 journalists from scratch. A lead story in the first issue was wrong, but the title bounces back.

2001: Appointed editor of the FT in October. Steers the title through the worst business-advertising recession in four decades. Closes the heavily loss-making colour magazine The Business; launches Asia edition in 2003. Is credited with reinforcing the FT's reputation for hard news and establishes its subscription-based website, FT.com, now profitable.

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