Dickson: Well, I can’t speak for other papers. I know, with us, it is emphasized. Every reporter who comes into the FT—well, everyone who comes into the FT on the editing side of the paper—is offered and given balance sheet training. A lot of it is done by a former financial editor of the paper, Jane Fuller, who now runs a consulting business. She not only knows accounts front to front, but she knows a journalist’s needs. She comes in with a package that she knows will help our journalists get the most out of accounts, and then she comes back and retrains people, so it’s drummed into them. It may be a lost art elsewhere, but we place a tremendous emphasis on being able to read a balance sheet. What the balance sheet tells you may often be somewhat opaque—notwithstanding 2008—there’s still an awful lot of information sitting there if you’re looking for it.
CJR: A different topic: We had a really great talk with Rob Grimshaw, who does your digital stuff. Kind of a rock star these days in the paywall set. It’s a good story. One of the things he did talk about is, the thing about this paywall thing is it’s not just about putting up a tollbooth or whatever. He described it as a kind of complete transformation of how the company does business. How does this new digital emphasis affect the editorial side? Are there any dangers in terms of getting your wires crossed with advertisers, that kind of thing, but also: how and to what extent does editorial have to collaborate with the rest of the business internally?
Dickson: The first thing to emphasize is that, while there is generally closer working, the Church and State division between editorial independence and the advertising and commercial aide is paramount. We cannot allow our journalism to be influenced by outside forces, and that is front and center in all we do. Every reporter on the paper knows it. We use social media on the reporting side. We collaborate, particularly with Darcy [Keller, head communications for the Americas] and her team, on the social media side… to get our message out of what we’re producing in the paper. It’s been an invaluable means of spreading the word of what’s going in next day’s paper. A very large portion of our [registered users] now are coming from social media leads…Conversely, social media is important for our reporting efforts in terms of increasing ability to crowd-source information. The ability to go on Twitter and see what people are talking about and, in some instances, actually react if there is a situation literally involving crowds that’s on Twitter. During the  London riots, you could go on Twitter and you could see what was happening on the ground before any mainstream media was reporting. We’re keen to incorporate social media increasingly into our website offering. The question, which I think everyone is grappling with, is how much and to what extent do you mediate what’s coming on?
CJR: Of course. Beyond, literally just beyond that, phones and tablets are kind of a big deal these days. Does that change your life at all?
Dickson: Not in terms of reporting, particularly.
CJR: Last thing: Mobile is such a big growth thing. Is that a disincentive to do longer pieces, since people are reading on these smaller screens?
Dickson: No, not at all. It’s obviously not as easy to read a 3,000-word article on a phone as it is in print or online, but our readers read us in multiple formats. They do just read us on the phone, and they don’t just read us at the start of the day. Every day we run a big page, what we call a ‘Big Page,’ which is a page with a full-page feature on it. A lot of our traditional readers, if they don’t have time—these are all very busy people—if they don’t have time first thing in the morning to go through the whole paper, they will often rip that page out and save it for the evening or the weekend.
CJR: Right, or press the “Read Later” button or whatever.