MEDIA PROFILE: Emily Bell, business editor, the Observer - A true business strategist

Emily Bell is bemoaning the lot of the working mother. Her 16- month-old boy has gone down with a temperature and she has had to spend a day looking after him. She is clearly still worried, even though she jokes that his temperature allowed her to watch Countdown yesterday.

Emily Bell is bemoaning the lot of the working mother. Her 16-

month-old boy has gone down with a temperature and she has had to spend

a day looking after him. She is clearly still worried, even though she

jokes that his temperature allowed her to watch Countdown yesterday.



Things are not going to be slacking off in the next few months for her,

either. She has been promoted from deputy to business editor of the

Observer, not bad going for a girl who was refused an interview at City

University’s post-graduate journalism diploma. Instead she started her

career on trade magazine Big Farm Weekly in 1987 before moving on to

Campaign within a year.



In her new role she is overseeing a huge change in the paper’s coverage

that takes effect next year. The Observer will be splitting its business

and personal finance sections from 3 January. Bell will oversee both

sections, but she will devolve a lot of responsibility to Maria Scott,

the personal finance editor, who will effectively run the finance

section.



’Personal finance advertising has mushroomed in the last few years and,

if you assume that under New Labour we will see more privatisation of

things like pensions, reader interest can only grow,’ she says. The

competitive nature of the Sunday newspaper market means she is keeping

her powder dry about the style, shape and substance of the two new

sections, but she is giving them a lot of thought.



’We’re dealing with a business section that goes down on a Friday night

so we have to be able to predict what’s going to be happening far better

than before and work harder at digging for stories or providing

analysis,’ she says.



Her peers don’t think that is going to be a problem. ’Emily is one of

the wisest people I know,’ says Janine Gibson, media correspondent for

the Guardian. ’She has an uncanny ability to predict stories. It’s

because she is that rare thing amongst media journalists - someone who

really understands business and can make all the right connections. She

is also extremely honourable so people trust her.’



As to the analysis, two weeks ago the chairman of Barclays Bank resigned

on Friday, giving the evening and Saturday papers ample time to cover

the story. Radio 4’s Today programme, however, said that the Observer’s

coverage was the best of the lot. Bell doesn’t preen, but she is clearly

chuffed at the praise, especially considering the attitude that one or

two financial PR companies have towards Sunday papers which aren’t the

Sunday Times.



’Some financial PROs operate a two-tier system which can be incredibly

annoying for a Sunday journalist,’ she says. ’We have a better business

section than the Sunday Times. That is not just my prejudice. We won two

awards last year. You still have one or two financial PROs who favour

the Sunday Times, but that makes it all the more enjoyable when you get

a story about their clients that shocks them,’ she laughs.



HIGHLIGHTS



1987: Reporter, Big Farm Weekly



1988: Chief reporter, Campaign



1995: Media business editor, the Observer



1998: Business editor, the Observer.



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