Anorak News | Buzzfeed v Financial Times: culture clash exposed by Zoom spying story

Buzzfeed v Financial Times: culture clash exposed by Zoom spying story

by | 5th, May 2020

Mark Di Stefano was media and tech correspondent at the Financial Times. That’s a great news beat. Media writing about media is pretty fun. And media loves reading about media. It’s a beat that gets your name known among your peers. But he blew it. Last Friday the Australian journalist tweeted: “Hi, letting everyone know today was my last day at the FT. This afternoon I offered my resignation. Thank you everyone who has given support. I’m now going to take some time away and log off x.” What he did is a tale best told by the Independent, one of the two publications he upset (the other being its sister organ The Evening Standard):

Mark Di Stefano, media and technology correspondent for the FT, listened in as staff at The Independent were told of pay cuts and furloughs on 23 April in response to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Before the call had concluded, and before staff employed in America and elsewhere had been told the news, Di Stefano tweeted the details. Shortly afterwards he published an article on the Financial Times website, revealing confidential information about the advertising downturn experienced at The Independent and quoting the company’s chief executive, Zach Leonard. He attributed the information to “people on the call”.

The FT apologised for one of their own breaking their rules. The FT’s code of conduct states:

“The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by … intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails. Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge … can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.”

Entertainment reporter Peter Ford is quoted in Media Week:

“Hope you learn from this. You’ve orchestrated campaigns against many people, including myself, in the past. You’ve encouraged pile-ons and a cancel culture against anyone you consider ‘conservative leaning’. Despite this I hope in time you bounce back as you’re clearly not a fool.”

It’s worthwhile looking at a few words on Di Stefano’s training and readiness for the role:

His remit at BuzzFeed in 2014? “Simon [founding editor Simon Crerar] said just break news.” His title was breaking news reporter. Looking back at those years, he said: “I had no idea what to do. I tweeted a lot and chased the biggest story of the day. For the first year and a half I wrote up any story I could find and then I was appointed political editor.”

And then he joined the FT, working with Janine Gibson, who he’d worked with when they were both at Buzzfeed:

I networked as much as I could taking people out for coffees and drinks. I realised the way to be a reporter in 2020 hasn’t changed that much – it’s all about who you know, having mobile phone numbers and being able to call and text message sources. Old school reporting techniques make for the best stories.”

Journalism can’t be about anything is fair game if you can gain access to it. The editor of The Independent Christian Broughton goes on the record:

“We respect freedom of speech and understand the challenges of newsgathering, but The Independent considers the presence of a third-party journalist in a staff briefing to be entirely inappropriate and an unwarranted intrusion into our employees’ privacy. Our spokesperson had a full statement prepared for the press – any interested reporters only needed to call and ask.”

It wasn’t a scoop. It was just a journalist breaking a press embargo in a rush to yell ‘first’.

Posted: 5th, May 2020 | In: News Comment | TrackBack | Permalink