[UPDATED] Reuters newsman: I didn’t like being told to treat readers as though they were my grandmother

Update: “I have determined the editor/executive connected to seven of 10″ nicknames in De Sal’Pinto’s email, writes Chris Roush of TalkingBizNews.com. The departing Reuters reporter wouldn’t confirm them, but others at Reuters did, says Roush. | Read his post.

——

Reuters veteran Martin De Sa’Pinto writes in his farewell memo that “it is actually something of a relief to be leaving, as the level of politics and manoeuvring had become far too grating for a person like me.” Also, “moving over to Reuters five years ago was somewhat traumatic, as I had drop the complex financial stuff and start treating readers as though they were my grandmother …I can understand the logic, but it still felt like dumbing down.”

From: De Sa’Pinto, Martin (Reuters News)
Sent: Monday, September 30, 2013 12:14 PM
To: EMEA-News-All; AMERS-News-All
Subject: Arrivederci

Spoiler alert. Dull leaving message ahead. If you’ve already read Dan Lalor’s very eloquent note, you can skip this one, you won’t miss much.

Martin de Sa'Pinto

Martin de Sa’Pinto

As a handful of you know, I’m leaving the company after 7 ½ years, heading off to work in financial crime (researching, not perpetrating). Those of you who want to keep in touch can do so via my email xxxxxxxx@hotmail.com, and feel free to call if you’re ever in Switzerland (+41 79 335 xxxx). Or +39 xxx 9301772 if you’re ever near Padua or Venice.

It is actually something a relief to be leaving, as the level of politics and manoeuvring had become far too grating for a person like me, unlikely to ever find gainful employment in the diplomatic corps.

To the many fine journalists among you with whom I’ve had the good fortune to share stories and contacts, I say thanks, it’s been great working together, and best of luck.

To the politicians among you, congratulations on turning a vibrant and cooperative culture into something significantly more miserable and depressing. To you I say sodoff, it’s been really mediocre working with you./CONTINUES

A few thoughts coming up, but first, just for fun, I thought I’d offer beers and dinner when possible to the first person who can recognise the nicknames of certain editors or former editors/execs:

So, your starter for ten, who is/was:

Yankers (aka Weird Al Yankovich, aka Smurf, aka “The (very bad four letter word) in Chief”)?; The Magic Herring? Turtle Neck? Armytage (now departed); Chubba the Hut (now departed)? The Lying Dutchman? The Eagle has Pharted? The DWeeb/Dwarf Rabbit (now departed); The Impetuous Trout? Carman (hallucinating in the sky)? Answers on a postcard, or to the email above.

Now the really dull stuff…

25 years ago when I left the UK for Italy I intended to stay there for a year, learn Italian and then apply to Reuters on my return to the UK. But given a sharp downturn in the UK economy, they cut their graduate recruitment programme, and I stayed in Italy for 18 more happy, if not profitable, years.

It was somewhat ironic that when I finally left Italy in 2006, it was to join the Reuters via HedgeWorld, where editing was hands off and reporters were encouraged not only to think their own stories through, but also to maintain their own writing style. It was a dynamic, insightful team of colleagues and friends, whose material was regularly reproduced in newspapers and magazines around the world, including the more demanding trade magazines and on occasion, in academic studies.

Moving over to Reuters five years ago was somewhat traumatic, as I had drop the complex financial stuff and start treating readers as though they were my grandmother (though as far as I know she never read the financial press and would have probably told me to go wash my mouth out if I’d talked about day-sales outstanding or short selling). I can understand the logic, but it still felt like dumbing down.

I managed to keep our legal people somewhat busy for the first three years, but despite irritating some banks and asset managers, never managed to get taken to court. The last couple of years have been far less fun, especially after I upset one of our editors by being right about a certain aspect of the Libor issue, since when story ideas began to get short shrift from certain editors who seem to think political point scoring is more important than publishing news.

In my years here in Zurich, I’ve worked with many of you, and provided contacts and information on any number of stories in the UK, mainland Europe, Asia, the U.S., the ex-Soviet republics, the Middle East and on occasion Australia. That has sadly fallen off in the last year – my last threatening letter from a lawyer was in October 2012 – mainly because five years of banging ones head against the wall to get ‘difficult’ stories out takes its toll on motivation.

Many of the journalists I enjoyed working with have now left the company, often pushed out by others with half the skill in getting at news, but very developed abilities in politics and wheedling. We may need to cut costs, but getting rid of people who can get exclusive and valuable news and keeping automatons who want to homogenise everything and whose main concern is their own career doesn’t seem like the right way to me.

Note to TR: if we want to cut costs, we can look more carefully at what we are doing as a company. In fact, I had written about it, the first paragraph would have been as follows:

“While troubled Reuters parent ThomsonReuters was slashing costs and staff to regain a competitive footing with rivals like Bloomberg, some insiders were passing eyewatering contracts to external firms and in some cases angling for a share of the proceeds.”

The curious among you might want to check out the TR relationship with a company called Redshift Horizons, both before and after it was bought by First Derivatives in September last year. Then check if any of the Redshift/FD executives had ever held positions at TR and awarded any contracts to these companies…

Anyway, enough waffle: This was not meant to go on for so long but 1) no one told me to limit it to 30 lines and 2) I don’t feel guilty about it, if people have read thus far it means they had nothing more pressing to do.

And on that note, I guess it’s high time to say goodbye.

Martin


Comments

comments