Ian Fraser began his journalistic career in the late 80s, initially freelancing for titles including the Daily Telegraph, Observer, Guardian, EuroBusiness and the trade magazine Campaign. His focus became firmly placed on finance and economics in 1997 when he became Director’s Deputy Editor. He then moved on to become the Financial Editor and Deputy Business Editor of Glasgow-based Sunday Herald in 1999: “I was part of a launch team put together by the paper’s launch editor Andrew Jaspan. From the start, I sought to cover the financial services sector from a slightly more sceptical perspective than was customary among financial hacks at the time, often questioning the strategy and ethical values of some of the major financial players including HBOS, RBS and Standard Life.”
In April 2006, Ian quit the Sunday Herald in order to go freelance and now mainly works from home near Edinburgh. He writes for a wide range of publications including The Sunday Times, Financial Times, Sunday Herald, The Economist, Financial News and Thomson Reuters. Ian also worked in broadcasting, where he helped to produce a number of investigative programmes about the financial crisis for the BBC. A one-hour documentary, RBS: Inside the Bank that Ran out of Money, on which he was programme consultant, was recently shown on BBC Two. In online journalism, he is Consulting Editor on Bloomsbury Publishing’s QFINANCE project, for which he also writes a blog about global finance and economics.
Ian believes that the UK media covered the global financial crisis and recession of 2008-09 well. “Even though some might complain the media has relentlessly focused on the negative, that is only reflecting the post-credit binge reality. Overall I would say the Financial Times has provided some of the most intellectually rigorous post-crisis coverage. However it is sad that certain titles seem determined to use the eurozone sovereign debt crisis as a vehicle to settle old scores.” Despite the UK media’s indulgence in “superficial banker bashing”, Ian is surprised by its reluctance to allocate either resources or space to investigating the numerous alleged frauds and accounting failures that hastened the near-demise of British banks such as HBOS. “A major weakness of the UK media – and I include myself in this – was that in the period 2000-07, it didn’t do enough to question the flawed thinking, neo-liberal economic policies, feeble regulation, weak corporate governance and reckless bankers that caused the crisis. This was a major blind spot. The majority of financial journalists were complacent in the extreme at the time.”
Although Ian’s career started in traditional journalism, he has found the transition into digital journalism relatively easy. “I enjoy the immediacy of online journalism, as well as the freedom of manoeuvre that it can provide. There is less of a requirement to get ideas past editors, and it’s possible to cover some of the quirkier subjects that would never be given space in a mainstream newspaper. Digital journalism, together with social media like Twitter and Facebook, also provides much greater scope to form a true dialogue with informed readers and sources. I’ve found Twitter to be an invaluable tool for networking and keeping pace with what’s going on in the worlds of finance and economics.”
However, Ian sees the future of financial journalism as increasingly uncertain: “The business models traditionally adopted by media organisations are becoming more and more difficult to sustain in the digital age, and some publishers have arguably created a rod for their own backs by giving too much content away for free. However it is encouraging that certain media groups focused on quality financial journalism, including the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and Euromoney are gaining traction with subscription-based models online. Meanwhile both Bloomberg and Reuters continue to fund quality journalism via the sale of terminals, but how long this model can survive remains to be seen.”
Making the Pitch: Tips and Advice for Pitching to Ian Fraser
“The one thing that’s sure to catch my attention is an unsolicited leak, but then these rarely if ever come from PRs! The best PRs are the ones who provide unfiltered access to the chief executives of the companies they represent. My biggest bugbear with PRs is that one or two have lied to me in the past (these ones have all been working in-house for banks), and that others clog up my inbox with irrelevant press releases that I could never use (these ones mainly work for agencies). The public relations people who make unsolicited phone calls about things I would never write about are the most annoying of all! I prefer to be approached via email or Twitter, and to receive pitches in a condensed written format.”
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