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The Reuter Society

Alan Philps

Alan Philps gave an entertaining account of his journalistic career from Reuters to “newspaper-land”, Stephen Somerville writes.

He described working as a Reuters correspondent in Moscow and the Middle East and how he achieved the distinction of being expelled from both Russia and Iran. Moving on to newspapers, his main experience was with The Daily Telegraph, first as a foreign correspondent, covering Moscow again, then Israel, Afghanistan and Iraq, and then as foreign editor. 

Drawing on this background, Philps ventured some telling comparisons between the news agency and newspaper worlds. One of the main differences, he said, was management culture. Whereas Reuters was a meritocracy, a newspaper resembled a renaissance court serving the wishes of the editor. The product was also different. Reuters, he suggested, produced a flow of clear water that clients could use for their own various purposes. By contrast, daily newspapers dealt in different brands of fizzy water. Sunday newspapers went further and spiked the fizzy water with shots and flavours of their own.

In 2011 Philps was hired by Chatham House to re-launch its authoritative bi-monthly magazine, The World Today. This was another kind of journalism, upholding the standards of a highly regarded institution, but punching hard enough to provoke protest letters from ambassadors on issues of national sensitivity. ■