Zanny Minton Beddoes is the Economics editor for the Economist magazine. She is responsible for coverage of the American economy, Western economic policy and issues relating to globalization. She has been an influential commentator on the Great Recession.
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Logging off now. I'll be back in the morning, probably around 9am London time. Thanks for your questions. I will do my best to get to them all. Z
Thanks for all these great questions. I'm in Berlin and it's quite late here. I'll probably only manage a few more questions tonight. But I'll join the conversation again once I get back to London tomorrow morning. Z
We appear to be back, so I will answer a few more questions. Sadly, I can't stay too long. But I will answer more tomorrow. Z
Update: It seems that this AMA has been deleted, so I'm going to hold off answering any more questions. Hopefully, we can make this work another time. Apologies to everyone who is still in the conversation.
I studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University and then went on to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In my first summer at Harvard I headed to Poland as part of a group of interns headed by Professor Jeffrey Sachs. We worked as advisors to the Minister of Finance in Poland's first post-communist government. This was a life-changing experience. Crammed into an office in the Soviet-style ministry, we were writing policy memos designed to help Poland's reformers to build a market economy.
After Harvard I joined the IMF, working first on Senegal and Mali and then Krygyzstan. I started at The Economist in 1994 in a newly-created job of emerging-markets correspondent. After two years in London I moved back to Washington, DC in 1996, and ended up staying there for 18 years. I became The Economist's economics editor in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. One highlight of this period was writing a special report on inequality in 2012. That was a year before Thomas Piketty's 'Capital' was published in French.
In August 2014 I moved back to London to run the paper's business, finance, science and technology sections. My predecessor as Editor-in-Chief, John Micklethwait, announced he was leaving in December and I was appointed in January 2015.
This week, we took the unusual step of having three different covers.
Some questions people often ask us and our answers:
Introductions aside, ask away!
Assuming all other factors were equal, would you sooner hire a graduate of Journalism, History, or Business?
We hire people with all kinds of degrees, but in general prefer to hire people who know about a subject and can write. Very few people who work for The Economist have degrees in journalism.
How are the subjects for the obituary section chosen? Usually they are not particularly famous figures, but the pieces are always extremely well written and researched, especially considering the short time frame.
Our brilliant obituaries editor, Ann Wroe, chooses her subject each week.
Isn’t it time to abolish the monarchy in the UK? Your Bagehot column last week called the House of Lords “a joke” and called for “more democracy”: surely the monarchy deserves similar criticism?
Admittedly, it doesn’t have as much real power as the Lords, but from a symbolic perspective the idea that our head of state is still a hereditary position seems to contradict the values of a 21st century democracy? Next to liberal, republican systems like the US it just seems embarrassingly medieval.
That's a great question. You probably know that we have argued for abolishing the monarchy. Bill Emmott, our editor between 1993 and 2006, was a particularly keen Republican. In 1994, he argued that monarchy “is the antithesis of much of what we stand for: democracy, liberty, reward for achievement rather than inheritance.” It is “an idea whose time has passed.”
I am more relaxed about the monarchy. The idea of a hereditary institution is at odds with the meritocracy we champion. But the British monarchy is popular and doesn't seem to do any harm. It is a largely symbolic role. For me the most important thing is that real power is with elected politicians.
Great! Finally I get to ask the question that's been bugging me for months.
Was it your decision to get rid of the honorific "Sir" in the Letters section and not replace it with "Madam"? If so, why? If not, who made that decision?
The Letters section just seems to be missing something without an honorific.
Yes, it was my decision. "Sir" was obviously not accurate. And "Madam" sounded far too old-fashioned to me. You are not the only person who misses the honorific, by the way.
Hi Zanny! Two quick questions:
My reading habits are pretty eclectic. On a daily basis I go through the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London and the Financial Times. But, like many people, I read individual articles from a much broader set of newspapers and magazines through my Twitter feed. That's the first thing I scan in every morning, along with a lot of newsletters and other news feeds.
What's your take on the high cost of housing in the UK, particularly London? Does it make it harder for The Economist to hire staff?
The high cost of housing, particularly in London, is an outrage. People have to commute vast distances to find something affordable. Productivity is hit because skilled and talented people cannot afford to live there. Worse, it is a largely self-induced problem. Property prices have soared because supply has failed to keep up with demand. If planning regulations were eased and the pace of construction accelerated, the rise in London house prices need not be so absurd.
At the advent of the internet
why did so many people in news give their product away for free right away? Would it have changed the fate of 'print media' if they kept subscriptions going out of the gate? I find it curious that people saw the web as so 'innovative' and a 'wild west' that they threw out business models almost all together, when it was at a fundamental level not much more than a switch to presenting with pixels instead of ink.
I agree with you. The rush to give content away free online was ultimately going to be unsustainable. If you want good content, it has to be paid for somehow. Luckily, we didn't jump on that bandwagon at The Economist.
if I may ask a follow up. Do you have the same requirements for the Web/social media and print versions? Because I've seen pretty uneven quality between print and the facebook/web version.
That's interesting. We have a more clearly defined editing process in print than on social.
What are your thoughts on Jon Stewart's influence on media, politics, and journalism? Was it more or less unprecedented, or can you put him in a tradition?
The power of satire and biting humour is nothing new, but Jon Stewart is a spectacularly good example. He's had a big influence, and rightly so.
What do you personally think should be done about the war on drugs?
We have long championed the legalisation of drugs - a cause that I firmly support and one I intend to keep pushing. Last week we launched Economist Films, a new venture that reinterprets our journalism in video form. One of our first two pilots was on the war on drugs. Tell me what you think of it.
What is one article published by your newspaper that you think everyone should read?
I can't possibly choose one article! My goal is to have many must-read articles in every issue. The word I often use is "mind-stretching". I want each section of the The Economist to contain something that is mind-stretching every week.
Hi Zanny! Glad to see the weekly newspaper which I have always associated to be a a magazine haha is represented on this thread.
My question was regarding the future of the Eurozone. Would you agree that it is high time peripherals such as Greece (after almost a decade of bailouts and restructuring) make their way out of the zone? In fact I feel it is a boon when comparing growth rates of such peripherals before and after joining the Eurozone.
The question of whether Greece should stay inside the euro or leave is a tough one-and is the subject of our cover editorial this week. It is still my view that both Greece and the rest of the euro zone would be better off if they stayed in, but that will demand both more reform from the Greeks and debt reduction from the creditors. Grexit is not an easy solution. It will devastate the Greek economy in the short term; even in the longer run the gains from a big devaluation are easily exaggerated. Greece will only prosper if it frees up its still-rigid economy and overhauls its clientilist state, whether or not it is inside the euro.
How does someone get their foot in the door at The Economist? Do you just hire staff, or also freelancers? And how much experience do you look for in new hires?
One of the best ways to get a foot in the door is through an internship. As it happens we are looking for a social media intern right now. The closing date for applications is tomorrow. For anyone interested in applying, please note that we put a lot of emphasis on your sample article. Being able to write is more important than what you have done. If you are interested, check this out before tomorrow.
For which 'Leader' did you witness the most argument internally?
In hindsight, which Leader within the last 10 years took a position that you most regret?
It's just outside your ten year window, but I think the most internally controversial leader I can think of is our position on the Iraq war. (Long before my editorship).
Why did you end up staying in DC for 18 years?
For blended family reasons.
Should Britain’s foreign policy be aimed at increasing and strengthening Britain’s standing in the world, or should it be resigned to making the best of a reduced role?
Under David Cameron Britain's global role has shrunk markedly, as we argued in an editorial in April. From shrinking military spending to a lack of diplomatic engagement, Mr Cameron had a Little England mentality. I think that was both unfortunate and short-sighted. I hope that Britain does more to re-engage. The big test will be the referendum on EU membership.