Today we’re very excited to share with you a Q&A with Mike Ribbeck, Deputy Editor, South West Business Insider.
A former regional daily newspaper journalist of 25 years, Mike has a wealth of knowledge and experience in business and regional press. We are incredibly grateful to Mike for taking the time to share some of that knowledge with us today and we hope you enjoy hearing from him as much as we did.
Could you tell us a bit about how you got into the world of business journalism?
Pure accident. I was doing a job I loved and was told I was going to be made business editor. I was not keen on the idea and had never been interested in covering the world of business.
Turns out I was completely wrong. I quickly realised that as business editor of a highly respected regional newspaper I was in a privileged and important role.
That was in the spring of 2008 and within a matter of months business was front page news and I have never looked back.
I quickly came to realise that business is the key driver that keeps any country moving forward.
What do you love most about being a business editor?
Meeting and talking to the people behind businesses of all shapes and sizes. One of the things I learned very early on covering business is how fascinating and interesting business leaders and entrepreneurs tend to be. They are usually creative and forward-thinking by their nature. They also have a wide understanding of the way the world works and a grasp of what trends are around the corner.
What advice would you give those interested in pursuing a career in business journalism?
Have an enquiring mind, if you want to be really good at something then you need to be interested and engaged in the subject. If you are not interested in your subject then think about trying something else. You can always tell when someone is truly engaged and immersed in the issue or area they are covering. I think that makes all the difference.
What three skills do you think are most important in your role?
An ability to listen; sounds simple but a good interviewer gets their subject to talk and then sits back and listens. It should always be about them and their story.
Adaptability; the only thing that is inevitable is change. I have seen enormous change in my career and the pace of change is increasing. The most successful people are the ones who are always open to new ideas and ways of doing things.
Clarity and focus: understanding what is needed from you and being able to see the bigger picture. It is all too easy to get side-tracked or distracted. If you want to hit deadlines and deliver relevant articles then you need to maintain focus and discipline on the task ahead. Being able to write in simple, plain language without jargon helps.
What do you think businesses can do to stand out to editors like yourself?
Have a story to tell. As a journalist, you are always looking for an angle to hang an article or feature on. That angle can be a new idea or concept or a great back story. Businesses audiences are smart and informed and are always on the lookout for new information, ideas and concepts.
What do you wish people (companies, PRs) sent you more of?
Relevant information. I get lots and lots of emails so you need to process information at high speed. The important information for any journalist is what does a business do, where is it based, how successful are they and are there any pictures to go with the article?
What’s your biggest bugbear about what’s pitched into you?
I think it really helps if PR people have an understanding of what the journalist wants or is looking for. I would suggest PR people should do their homework on firms and the publication a journalist works for before they pitch. Building a relationship with a journalist really helps because it gives you an understanding of what they are looking for and when they need it by.
What’s your favourite thing about regional press?/ Why is regional press so important?
To be honest I work in specialist business press which is aimed at a business audience. That audience tends to be more demanding which I like because it keeps me on my toes. Like many areas in life the regional press is undergoing a major change. That process has been accelerated by Covid and it will be interesting to see what the end result will look like.
Any predictions about the future of your sector and regional journalism?
We are living in an increasingly fragmented world and there has never been more demand on people’s time and attention. Like almost everything in life the pandemic has accelerated changes that were already taking place. When it comes to the sector I work in I think there will always be a demand for well-researched articles that give information and insight.
In terms of the regional press it is really hard to predict what will happen as the shift from print to digital speeds up.
The current thinking appears to suggest that we will all be living in smaller communities where everything we need is just 15 minutes from our doorstep. If that turns out to be true then maybe the demand for micro-journalism might increase.
Thanks again to Mike for a fantastic Q&A!