Lionel Barber’s pick of the week

Introduction: Terrorists stage a two-day massacre in Mumbai; Alistair Darling slashes VAT and urges British consumers to spend, spend, spend; Woolworths goes bankrupt; Angela Merkel refuses to reflate the German economy; BHP drops its bid for Rio; and Huang Guangyu, China’s richest man, is detained on suspicion of share price manipulation.

A word on the Mumbai massacre: Joe Leahy and James Fontanella-Khan worked through the night, filing on-the-ground reports for print and online.  James Lamont in New Delhi produced several thousand words of authoritative background on the implications for domestic politics and relations with Pakistan. On the second day, our coverage continued to stand out because of its breadth and intelligence. Joe Leahy’s on-the-spot reporting was superb: calm, thorough and graphic.  He also found time to put together commentary for an online video which was among the “most read”. Jo Johnson, formerly South Asia correspondent, composed a sharp Lex note and then penned a majestic overview. James Blitz supplied important diplomatic background.

The FT’s Seasonal Appeal: This week saw the successful  launch of our 2008 seasonal appeal , on behalf of WaterAid, with three very strong pieces by Barney Jopson on the Big Page, World Page and Life and Arts.  Barney cleverly wove together some very colourful stories on the ground in Bangladesh, Nepal and Mali with the important general issues raised by WaterAid’s work. Charlie Bibby’s accompanying photos were also of the highest class. Online, we have published our first video, filmed on location in Nepal by Steve Ager, and focusing on the hardships of one Nepalese woman who has to walk long distances to collect water for her family. This is a big test for us now that the economy is in a downturn, so anything you can do to raise awareness among friends and contacts would be most welcome.

The FT wins acclaim at the Foreign Press Awards: Jamil Anderlini,  FT correspondent in Beijing, won print/web feature of the year at the UK Foreign Press Association Awards for his multimedia reporting on Chinese peasants’ demands for land rights. International coverage by Mr Anderlini and by other media outlets helped bring the peasants’ demands to the attention of China’s leaders, who addressed the problem at last month’s plenary meeting of the Communist Party. The party eventually approved limited reforms allowing farmers to trade land rights more easily. Stephanie Kirchgaessner, FT Washington correspondent, was the runner-up in the same category for her investigative work on lobbyists  The judges said that Jamil’s and Stephanie’s entries were a class above any other submissions – and regretted that they could not have been in separate categories.

Alistair Darling’s pre-Budget report: George Parker and Chris Giles, leading the parliamentary and economics team, produced top-notch coverage under very tight deadlines.  Philip Stephens penned a pointed column waving Goodbye to New Labour.  Martin Wolf produced several bon mots, including “Profligacy has replaced prudence … but Mr Darling would say profligacy with a purpose.”  A thought: were we sufficiently sceptical of the impact of the VAT cut in stimulating consumer spending?

Christmas Watch: Rebecca Rose, take a bow for your excellent compendium of Christmas books in the Weekend FT.  We were also spoilt for choice with Jancis Robinson’s red wines, Rowley’s Leigh’s culinary tips, and the evening gift guide. Mark Alderson brought everything together nicely – and we had extra online content, with Rowley telling us how to make spiced beef in an audio slideshow.

Weekend FT watch: Strong front cover stories on home auctions in House and Home, and the man who discovered nylon in the Magazine.  Money had very good follow-up to the PBR, where the accountants have caught a second wind in tax planning.

Photograph of the Week: A proud Angela Merkel reading Betrand Benoit’s excellent Big Page (“The Measured Merkel”).  How many other pictures do we have of world leaders in politics, business and finance reading the FT – and might that make a marketing pitch?  (Bertrand’s Saturday op-ed on why the Germans hate borrowing on credit was very much an eye-opener)

The end of Woolworths: Tom Braithwaite was well ahead on the story. Norma Cohen wrote a perceptive backgrounder on the pressures on the Pension Protection Scheme.

Detained Man in the News: Geoff Dyer and Jamil Anderlini produced a riveting portrait of China’s richest man, plus the right balance of background explaining the timing of the arrest and its political significance. Detained Man in the News (2):  Alex Barker, Sue Cameron and George Parker produced several snippets of fascinating background on the arrest of Damien Green, the Tory MP suspected of receiving sensitive information from a Whitehall mole.  And we gave the rozzers a roasting in the Saturday leader column.  One to watch.

Wit watch: Robert Shrimsley wrote another side-splitting Notebook on Dr Darling and Dr Osborne’s varying prescriptions for the UK economy. Victor Mallet’s Outside Edge on Benidorm’s bid to be classified as a Unesco world heritage site was well done.

Comment watch: John Gapper’s column on Warren Buffett’s calculated gamble to write $35bn of put options on equity markets was among the most read; Gideon Rachman’s column asking whether American declinism was this time for real also made it into the top ten; Nigel Lawson delivered a powerful blast against Alistair Darling (We need more of this detached scepticism…*)

* The revival of the FT’s Economists Christmas Drinks produced a very good turn-out.

Europe watch: Victor Mallet did a good job taking the business pulse in Catalonia – exactly the kind of on-the-ground reporting that explains what is going on in the real economy. Gerrit Wiesmann explored the fascinating issue of how to archive internet content in the Global Village slot. Nikki Tait and Ralph Atkins cast a suitably sceptical eye over the EU’s stimulus package. Ben Hall, Geoff Dyer, and James Blitz were very quick off the mark to analyse the significance of the cancellation of the EU-China summit watch: Aside from Mumbai and WaterAid, The Weekend Christmas was well promoted in print and brought in additional revenue online. Credits to Josh Delamare for the podcast and the Rowley Leigh audio slideshow, with Charlie Bibby. Fang Wang combined with Tom Burgis to produce another audio slideshow on Aids in southern Africa, to complement newspaper reporting for World Aids Day.

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