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Reuters unveils plans to face changed 'realities'

Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler, pictured, on Tuesday reiterated the agency's commitment to independent, unbiased, on-the-ground journalism, said Thomson Reuters is committed to the news operation, and unveiled plans "that respond to, and anticipate, changes brought about by new technologies, new user behaviors, new competitors, and new global business realities".

“We remain committed after 162 years to independent, unbiased, on-the-ground journalism in every corner of the world – produced with a global perspective and with no agenda other than telling the world’s stories as honestly as we possibly can. This is a mission of which we can be exceedingly proud, and one that we all play an essential part in fulfilling,” he said in a New Year message to editorial staff.

In his first internal announcement since a recent period of scores of morale-sapping redundancies and buyouts, Adler said Reuters made excellent progress in 2013 and showed admirable resourcefulness in the midst of cost controls and staff reductions.

“We became more relevant and efficient through the Sharper File project that forced us to ask, and answer, hard questions about what we should write, and at what length. We ended the year producing fewer unnecessary updates and marginal stories,” he said.

Reuters also got better at the twin-track approach that enabled it to excel at speed, accuracy and neutrality on one track, and commentary, insight, and depth on the other, he said. “We did this by building balanced bureaus that had within them the ability both to snap at lightning speed and to address the bigger picture. Not every journalist did both, and that’s fine. But every bureau worked hard to do both – and the improvement year over year was significant.”

Adler said: “Our peers recognized how much we are improving. In 2013, Reuters received more than 125 awards for excellence, 40 percent more than the year before – and a record for us. We’ve also done more extensive customer research than ever before and found that both financial and news agency customers value Reuters news more highly than they do that of any competitor. We score especially high for speed, accuracy, neutrality and relevance – attributes that our users consider especially important.”

But “an enormous amount of work has to be done to become as strong as we want and need to be, especially considering how quickly the world is changing”.

He listed the following as important initiatives which will be introduced this year:

  • Strengthening coverage of emerging markets and of South-South investing, in response to shifts in the global economy
  • Continuing the Sharper File project to intensify focus on the most relevant coverage and minimize marginal stories
  • Developing curated streams of social-media content for customers and innovating in algorithmic verification of posts, as Twitter increasingly becomes a source of breaking news
  • Accelerating automation of data feeds and routine tasks, to maintain our speed advantage, enhance the comprehensiveness of our file, and free journalists to focus on more complex work
  • Improve news delivery on Eikon and, to meet customers’ changing news-consumption habits and rising expectations
  • Providing additional training in multi-media skills, ethics and standards, and news management to help journalists excel in a period of rapid transformation.

Adler added: “Meanwhile, let me add that, for all the challenges that face us and our industry, we are blessed at Reuters with a profitable business model and a promising future. Our company is committed to our news operation and to the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles, which enshrine our commitment to ‘integrity, independence and freedom from bias’.

“Let’s also remember that these principles provide us with a further responsibility to ‘adapt the news and other services and products to maintain [our] leading position in the international news and information business.” ■