Jane Barrett (Lincoln, 1995), Global Editor for Reuters


Global Editor Jane talks about the ever-changing world of media, switching her career plans and her top tips for starting in the industry

Published: 23 November 2021


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Where did you initially think your degree in Modern Languages would take you?

When I first went to university, I saw it as a stop-gap until I made it as an opera singer. Obviously that didn’t happen but it turned out that Modern Languages was an excellent degree to prepare me for the critical thinking and communication that are so vital in journalism.

You started your career as a trainee correspondent in London then Rome. Were you actively involved in student journalism during your time in Oxford? What helped you land this job?

I first got into journalism via my love of music. The editors of Cherwell were good enough to let me try my hand at opera criticism when touring groups came to Oxford. I enjoyed writing, so during my third year out I went to Chile and banged on news organisations’ doors asking for work. Luckily, Reuters needed an extra pair of hands so I was quickly put on rote jobs like the press digest, then the not-so-glamorous fishmeal and timber reports and finally got to try my hand at politics and features.

By the time I started my final year at Oxford, I knew that Reuters would be a fun job and started buying the FT most days to learn about business and economics. When I got to interview, what helped me get the job was proof that I was doing what I could to learn the topics and the trade. It wasn’t just a vague interest. I was putting time and effort in.

After many years as a correspondent, you moved into strategic and transformational roles at Reuters. Can you tell us more about working in Media News Strategy?

The media world is moving so fast. The digital revolution has brought both amazing opportunities and brutal realities with it and there are new things happening all the time. My job is to work with Reuters clients around the world to understand their strategies and needs so that, as an agency, Reuters can keep providing what is relevant to them. I also bring in the newest thinking and developments from the media and tech industries to make sure Reuters stays digitally sharp too.

One example would be that many of our clients are trying to appeal to younger audiences. That means they need different content – more on climate, more personal stories, more visual and emotional stories that work on the likes of Instagram. That feedback helps us to tweak our newsgathering priorities, our shooting style, how we deliver content to clients.

What for you are the personal highlights of working in your current role?

It’s an amazing privilege to work with some of the brightest and best people in digital media. I sometimes find myself in conversations about the next big thing – AI in journalism, for instance – and wonder as I learn from others, bring my experience to bear and together try to shape the future. It’s a really innovative, cross-functional space to work in.

Top tips for any alumni who are interested in working in media but don’t know how to get started?

Get started 😉! It has never been easier to start up your own socials, blog, website, community. Whatever you are in to, start reporting on it, feed your curiosity, dig deeper. Think about how to present it, on which platform, and give it a go. That will help you in any interviews you have for journalism jobs.

Also, many media companies want to bring in new skills and more diverse talent. On the skills front, we’ve been hiring people for social storytelling, open source verification, product thinking, tech development, AI. We need great brains to help media companies improve our digital products and work out how to apply new innovations and trends to the news industry. On diversity, news companies really want to bring in different approaches, experience and thinking from diverse communities. It isn’t a nice to have, it is critical to be able to reach different audiences.

What one thing could make somebody stand out in this sector?

Be curious, flexible and willing to try new things. Bring your ideas about how things can be done better. And then remember that you need to put in the work and be open to feedback.

Have you ever benefitted from having a mentor during your career?

More than a single mentor, I’ve had input from different people around the company, the industry and other walks of life who can speak to my work situations. It’s really good to have a variety of voices to break any bubbles and to challenge your thinking. I am part of some close-knit groups of people working in digital media, many of whom have become wonderful sounding boards and often fill the gap of an official mentor. I get particular strength from a few excellent women in news leadership with whom I have regular chats and occasional peer-to-peer coaching sessions.

I love mentoring people myself and often find that talking things through with my mentees brings me clarity and encouragement as I seek to guide them. Giving back gives me so much!

More than mentors, I have loved having coaches at critical moments. I had one when I was leading a digital transformation in the Reuters newsroom. When I felt my wheels spinning, my coach was so calm and would gently challenge me to diagnose issues and help me find a way through. Then when I couldn’t see what came next in my career, another coach helped me do a very personal 360 to see my strengths and weaknesses and then worked with me to shape next steps.

Favourite Oxford memory?

It has to be my time rowing with the Lincoln Women’s 1st VIII in the summer of my second year. We had a great, supportive group of both undergrads and postgrads who worked together so well as a team. We were blessed with incredible weather, which made training even more pleasurable. A fun memory was when the Jesus Men’s VIII came alongside us as we were about to do a practice start right in front of the boathouses. They made a big fuss about taking on “the girls down Turl”. We kept our heads and did what we usually did. Within 15 strokes our cox had their six. It was a sweet moment – as was winning blades during Eights Week and celebrating with copious Pimm’s.

Where next for your own career path and the news industry as a whole?

For me, it is about finding new areas of leadership where I can bring my experience and my passions to bear, while also learning new skills and making new connections to drive things forward. In the past year, I’ve taken on a new challenge of leading the Editorial side of Reuters new events business which included organising and launching our new Reuters Next conference. That sort of experience is great for personal and professional growth, regardless of what my next actual title might be.

As for the news industry, there are huge challenges ahead. You need only read the reports from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford to find out how huge. There are on-going financial headwinds; challenges as to how to modernise our products for a digital generation where we are competing for attention against developer-rich companies like Netflix, Google and Facebook; political pressure from people who don’t like independent journalism and seek to shut it down or discredit it whenever possible; the huge difficulties of keeping local news going.

It’s certainly not an easy industry to be in but it is a fascinating industry, in which you can make a real difference. We saw that during Covid when people turned to news companies for information that was often life and death and relied on journalists to dig into policies and developments to hold politicians and companies to account. I truly believe that an informed society needs good journalism so it’s up to us all to make sure that we ensure a positive future for news.