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  • Hello, welcome to the Financial Times.

  • I'm Miranda Green, and I'm delighted to be joined

  • by Lionel Barber on his very last day as editor of the paper

  • after 14 years in the top job.

  • Lionel, thank you very much for speaking to me today.

  • It's great to be here, Miranda.

  • It's been an extraordinary decade and a half,

  • a really kind of tumultuous time to be at the head

  • of an international news organisation.

  • What, for you, have been the biggest moments

  • or the biggest trends that you think

  • have seen our world transformed in the way it has?

  • I think there are three big trends in the past 15 years.

  • One would be the global financial crisis

  • and its aftermath.

  • If you like, there was a huge economic and financial shock.

  • The world almost melted down in 2008.

  • And then there was a political reaction,

  • which I'm sure we're going to talk about -

  • the rise of populism and the anti-globalisation backlash.

  • And I think second would be the rise

  • of the east, the rise of China, China becoming, if you like,

  • the second superpower - economic superpower - and increasingly

  • assertive, and India following fast behind.

  • And then third is just the technological change,

  • this upheaval, symbolised, in a way by the smartphone,

  • which has changed everybody's lives

  • and certainly how media works.

  • So that tech change and the way that it's transforming media,

  • do you think we are a little way along

  • the transformation of the media industry, or further along,

  • or are we coming to somewhere where

  • we know this new world that we're dealing with,

  • or is there much more disruption to come, do you think?

  • More disruption to come.

  • We've only just begun, in my view.

  • There were many people who thought

  • that the smartphone would change things

  • maybe one or two degrees.

  • But if you think what the computer power of a smartphone

  • is, what the best, biggest computers

  • were doing say 20 years ago, and we haven't even

  • begun to see what machine learning

  • and artificial intelligence is going to do.

  • So for me, it's a bit man versus machines, and the journalists

  • - we need to take back control of it.

  • Right, because will the AI ever manage to compete with

  • the judgement that a good responsible media organisation

  • has to make every day, many times a day,

  • in which you've been at the centre of that machine,

  • filled with humans making those judgement calls?

  • Yeah, I think you and I have answered the question.

  • I mean, the journalists, the human mind,

  • cannot be replicated.

  • I think judgement is massively important in today's media.

  • You know all about fake news, that's

  • an often-used term, but this notion of disinformation,

  • misinformation, what can you trust?

  • And the FT, we've tried very hard to make it still

  • the centre of authority, a place where you can read accurate

  • and trustworthy news.

  • And I think that does require judgement

  • - curatorial judgement, human judgement.

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning

  • can help us maybe sort a bit and prioritise,

  • but I think there needs to be limits.

  • But data and the use of data in journalism

  • is obviously one of those things that the technology

  • has enabled us to do more, and obviously, for a business

  • newspaper, covering finance in some detail.

  • That's made a difference to our reporting already.

  • And I think that's been very positive influence,

  • because we know much more about our audience

  • now than we ever did.

  • Because we know what they're reading,

  • what they're interested in, what they're sharing.

  • And previously, if you like, in the newspaper age,

  • the way you kept in touch with readers

  • was you read the letters page or you get a phone call

  • from somebody who's either angry or pleased.

  • And obviously, we're in a whole different scale.

  • That's been very important for the FT as we've grown

  • our global audience now to almost 1.1m paying readers.

  • So you talked about the financial crash

  • and the recession that followed it

  • and then the political backwash from that.

  • Do you think that's still got a lot of time

  • to play out, that political reaction?

  • 'Cause clearly here in the UK we've

  • had the Brexit crisis and the vote.

  • And in America we've got the Trump presidency.

  • The first reaction to the global financial crash

  • was anti-globalisation, a backlash against it,

  • the Occupy Wall Street.

  • And then, you also had concomitant

  • with that, a concentration of financial power, paradoxically.

  • There was a crisis that got banks got bigger, not smaller,

  • less competition.

  • I think that's a problem.

  • But the third point - and I'm going back to globalisation

  • - is, 30 years ago the great popular reaction and worries

  • were about goods, the freedom of movement of goods.

  • And then maybe during the financial crisis,

  • freedom of movement of capital.

  • Actually now, it's about people.

  • And we're going to still see those demographic movements.

  • And different pull-up politicians

  • are drawing different conclusions.

  • One is - if you think of the tie-in to the rise of the east

  • - it's regaining control.

  • You've got a sort of reversion towards greater

  • nationalism and national economy rather than integrated supply

  • chains and things like that.

  • And also you've increasingly been travelling in Asia.

  • As China has risen, the importance of India

  • has grown massively over this period.

  • In a sense, how is that felt being

  • in London running a global network,

  • as the power balance shifts internationally?

  • I can still remember a senior Chinese diplomat just

  • over lunch using the phrase.

  • And it was the first time.

  • Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator was there.

  • He heard this diplomat use the word 'the second superpower'.

  • And I remember going back and Martin

  • saying that was the big thing out of this lunch.

  • China's never described itself in that role.

  • And that was 2006.

  • I've since made, I think, eight or nine trips to China.

  • And I've seen it change.

  • You've seen Beijing change, you've seen the growth of these

  • - just number of airports around China.

  • You've seen the growth of the Chinese middle class,

  • and now Chinese companies going global.

  • So it's visible, it's tangible, and it's real.

  • India also - we've got some problems now with Mr Modi

  • and the economy is slowing down rapidly

  • - but the fact is, power - economic power -

  • has shifted from the west to the east,

  • and we have to capture that.

  • You've spent a lot of your career

  • in Brussels and in the US as well as in London.

  • How does it feel with London changing its relationship

  • with Europe and with the States as well?

  • I mean, it's a real moment of flux.

  • Well, I'm still confident in the City of London,

  • because I think it's one of the world's great financial centres

  • and I don't worry about London's relationship to the EU.

  • The EU does not have a comparable financial centre,

  • and I don't think it's going to have one any time soon.

  • It's not going to be Paris, it's not going to be Frankfurt.

  • New York, by comparison, may benefit from divergence

  • of the London from Europe.

  • New York, they've got the big banks,

  • so that's the thing to watch there.

  • I worry more about how the rest of the country

  • is going to adapt to post-Brexit.

  • I think there are some great centres

  • of excellence like Cambridge.

  • I think Manchester is becoming a great city, linked

  • to the university as well.

  • But there are other places, and we know about the seaside towns

  • where they're still very vulnerable,

  • and no amount of huge public spending

  • is going to arrest that.

  • So thinking about the extraordinary access that we

  • at the FT have as a pre-eminent global international news

  • organisation.

  • I mean certainly as a reporter I've always

  • found it incredible what you can find out as an FT journalist.

  • But the financial crash, having this incredible ability

  • to talk to these leaders around the world,

  • how does that feel balancing that

  • with the journalistic killer instinct to get the story

  • and to hold people to account?

  • Well, access is two-edged, because you

  • talk to primary sources, but then it's easy with access

  • to be captured.

  • So in a way, I've always taken the view

  • that you have to be inside - close enough

  • to see the whites of their eyes, but then to detach and then

  • write from a slight distance.

  • Now obviously, the more intimate the relationship,

  • the more dangerous that relationship is.

  • And I remember being invited - indeed,

  • getting the call in the first week of taking over

  • as an editor - in 2005.

  • And who should it be?

  • It's Downing Street and Tony Blair.

  • And within three weeks, I'm on the sofa talking to the prime

  • minister and...

  • Being wooed.

  • Yeah.

  • Well, you know, it is just interesting.

  • But I think one always has to bear in mind the lines.

  • So access always has to be for a purpose,

  • and you can never sort of have people...

  • if people threaten access either to me or to FT journalists,

  • I've always said, well, I don't care.

  • We're still going to write about you.

  • And that's happened a number of times.

  • But, you're right.

  • I mean, I think at times, I've worried

  • a bit about whether we we're a little too close.

  • I mean, we're obviously a business newspaper.

  • We want to write about the real people and not just

  • - we've got to - well, when I say the real people,

  • I'm talking about it's good to have access

  • to board members and CEOs, people

  • who are exercising power.

  • We also need to talk to other people involved,

  • like investors and the accountants, et cetera.

  • So multiple sources is okay.

  • It's the way to deal with the access problem.

  • So you've had this very interesting interview

  • with Angela Merkel today on your last day.

  • Couple of months ago, a few months ago

  • - fascinating interview with Vladimir Putin.

  • What have been the sort of high points for you

  • of these extraordinary figures who you've

  • had this incredible level of access to,

  • to explain their world view through us, through the FT?

  • Well, it's one of the great privileges of being editor.

  • I've been very lucky.

  • I've wanted to still do journalism,

  • and I figured that one way to do it and plant the standard,

  • if you like, was go and see the people who run countries,

  • run businesses, but particularly political leaders, because I'm

  • interested in power.

  • I've always been fascinated by it.

  • So the Putin interview after midnight in the Kremlin

  • was really interesting.

  • I mean, this is Russia's back on the world stage.

  • North Africa, Middle East, et cetera,

  • and seeing him talk about that was very interesting.

  • Then, of course, he gave the big line,

  • which was the liberal idea is obsolete.

  • And so the Merkel interview.

  • Chancellor Merkel was, if you like the anti-Putin interview

  • I wanted to do, a bookend.

  • And I'm very interested in Germany, speak German,

  • studied German at university.

  • So for me, it was a nice endpiece.

  • But I think probably the highlights of all were maybe

  • being in Tehran and meeting president,

  • ex-president Rafsanjani - great historical figure--

  • and then seeing Rouhani at the end.

  • That was very..

  • I just hadn't been there ever to Iran.

  • I think being in the White House with President Trump.

  • He was a bit disappointed when he said have you

  • been to the Oval Office?

  • Nice place.

  • And I said, well, actually, I have...