Dame Damned for Denouncing FT Journos

08 October 2002

La belle dame sans merci / Thee hath in thrall.
Keats might have been referring to the spat between the Financial Times' noble army of journos and its chief executive Dame Marjorie Scardino – the first US-born official dame since that created by Rogers and Hammerstein.

In a recent much-publicized interview, Dame Marjorie was indiscreet enough to criticize reporters covering the corporate scene: “Business journalists … including those on the FT … don’t know much about business,” she opined, adding that they were not “working hard enough to ferret out stories”.

Her views were not received with enthusiasm by the FT’s serried ranks, the swell of whose fury reached even those corridors where the corporate Axminster and the perfume of expensive hair lacquer are at their thickest. It is hinted that ultimata were put and the future of the next day’s edition called into question.

And so it came to pass that a high priority email to all FT journalists was hastily tapped-out on an ocelot-upholstered notebook, in which Dame Marjorie expressed sorrow that her comments had caused such “grief”.

Referring to the controversial interview, the doughty Dame assured: “For the record, the discussion was not critical of the staff of the Financial Times, for whom I have the highest regard. The fact is that every newspaper in the world must wish it had broken some of the business scandals that have emerged in the past year as they were happening in the 1990s.

“As for my reported comments about business journalists, you must all know that I believe you’re the best in the world.”

She saw herself, Dame Majorie softsoaped, as the FT journos’ biggest fan and would steadfastly “continue to defend your independence, freedom and skill”. She was smitten with sorrow that her employees, “may have had reason to doubt my support, and for that I’m really sad”.

Let Oscar Hammerstein II have the last word: “There is nothin' like a dame.”

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff