Go back

60 seconds with…John McDermott

How long have you worked at the FT and what do you cover?

I’ve worked at the FT for 18 months. I am the executive comment editor, meaning I edit the comment page and the A-List blog, all under the watchful eye of Alec Russell, comment and analysis editor.

What is the best part of your job?

Colleagues: few people ever really enjoy a job unless they work alongside talented and fun people. So that, with an honourable mention for occasionally running into the torrent that is a conversation with Martin Wolf.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

We receive so many op-ed submissions that our days could comprise of only sifting and rejecting. So it’s important to find the time to approach the best writers and to identify the upcoming themes and events our readers will want to see covered. An hour spent wooing one good writer is far more important than one hour spent rejecting 100 bad writers.

What’s the most bizarre part of your journalism career?

That I have one at all.

Other than the FT, where do you get your news from and what is your preferred method of consumption?

Twitter, mostly. It’s like a personalised, intelligent wire service. (Adept Twitter use is far from the only thing that makes a good journalist, but it’s telling that some of the best journos have exquisitely tailored Twitter feeds, and some of the worst follow thousands of people in a vain effort to boost their own follower count.) Twitter is always the first thing I open on my computer. I also skim the broadsheets’ home pages every morning, and those of Reuters, Bloomberg, NYT and WSJ. Then I check out the competition: the opinion pages of the major papers, and Bloomberg view and Reuters. I dip in and out of Google Reader for blog posts, too. I also subscribe to the LRB, NYRB, New Yorker, Bloomberg Businessweek, the Economist, and Wired. And occasionally I find the time to look at something other than The New Yorker cartoons.

I tend to read most of these on my iPad or my desktop, but like many people I still enjoy a paper at the weekend, typically FT Weekend on a Saturday and the Observer on a Sunday. Reading and sharing and talking over the Sunday paper is one of life’s loveliest pleasures.

What product do you wish you had invented?


What was the last song you downloaded on your iPod?

Ho Hey by the Lumineers.

Where’s the best place you’ve travelled to?

There isn’t a single place but I have especially fond memories of Beirut, Damascus, Manali (North India), Glen Canyon (Arizona and Utah, US), Sarajevo, Tayrona (Colombia) and Montauk (on Long Island, New York).

Who’s your favourite commentator?

I don’t have one, fortunately. Though I do think Gary Silverman is the most underrated columnist in America.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Always go talk to her.

What is your motto for life?

Mottos are daft.

Provide a picture and tell us the story behind it

No story, but this picture (above) is a rare sight of me — speechless. That’s what the Grand Canyon can do. It’s also a snap of me in my favourite hat.

You can follow John McDermott on Twitter at: @johnpmcdermott

Back to top