Martin Dickson’s pick of the week

The UK budget, the banking crisis, and a surprise move by VW in its tortuous relationship with Porsche have been among the highlights of this week’s coverage.Our budget coverage – online and in print – was tremendous. We had a series of strong scoops on the contents in the days leading up to Wednesday from Chris Giles, Alex Barker, George Parker and John Reed, while Jim Pickard and Alex Barker‘s analysis of the slow fulfillment of last autumn’s stimulus promises was very timely. Chris Giles and Jean Eaglesham wrote a powerful yet subtle Analysis Page of whether the British economic model is bust.

On Wednesday itself we had fast, authoritative and innovative coverage online. The video team produced a strong series of videos which complemented our coverage. Special mention to Josh de la Mare who produced a thought-provoking strand of interviews with past Chancellors (www.ft.com/chancellors) offering their experiences during recessions and advice for Alistair Darling. The videos elicited some wonderful gems including a robust rejection of the Tory accusation that the fate of all Labour Chancellors is to run out of money. “Absolute bloody nonsense” says Denis Healey. On the day, a number of FT experts gave their instant reactions on camera, led by Chris Giles’ magisterial summary of the main points and Matthew Vincent’s take on the personal finance implications for high earners. Dan Garrahan organised and fronted videos from Westminster including a really punchy one with Vince Cable which provided the quote of the day for the splash – a good example of the need to mine all our own material for good lines.

The Budget blog organised by Sarah Laitner got a lot of hits and comments. Sarah, Richard Martin, and Claire Bryan from product development organised the budget live innovation, in which Robert Shrimsley, Jamie Chisholm and Matthew Vincent bravely blogged along as the Chancellor spoke – and attracted a very substantial community of readers and commentators.

The reporting and analysis was all so good – and quickly delivered – it seems almost invidious to single out individuals, but special mention should go to Chris Giles and George Parker for their economic and political coverage, to Matthew Engel for his beautifully judged colour piece, to Sharlene Goff and Matthew Vincent for their personal finance overview and to our team of columnists: Martin Wolf, Philip Stephens, Gillian Tett, Willem Buiter, Paul J Davies, Nick Timmins and Jonathan Guthrie – with his image of the Mondeo chancellor heading to the scrapyard. Lex was also excellent throughout the week on the UK economy and Andrew Hill on Lombard was equally pithy. Many congratulations to Andrew on his success at the Business Journalist of the Year awards, picking up not just the best columnist award but that for Decade of Excellence.

Elsewhere online, Jeremy Lemer and Cleve Jones organised a really strong interactive graphic on Obama’s 100 days, while our malaria map to go with the special report was really informative. Plaudits to Steve Bernard, Tom Griggs and Keith Fray.

The Combating Malaria report was a quintessential FT subject – science and medicine meet public policy – superbly executed. Originally conceived as a four-page report to mark World Malaria Day, it grew to 12. Alongside our recent inaugural Financial Times Health magazine, the malaria report has identified health policy as a subject of growing interest to our readers and advertisers. Combating Malaria was a team effort, but special thanks to Andrew Jack who, along with Clive Cookson and our foreign correspondents, provided first-rate writing, and Seb Morton-Clark who coordinated the video interviews with the Nigerian health minister and others.

The scoop of the week award goes to Daniel Schafer for the revelation that VW is considering a bid for Porsche, but we have had a strong batch of exclusives, including:

Krishna Guha kept us ahead of the US bank bail-out throughout the week with a series of policy scoops, together with Dan Dombey and Francesco Guerrera, and a magisterial Monday Analysis Page on stress tests of bank balance sheets.

The Friday for Saturday splash from Krishna and Francesco was way ahead of the competition. Unlike any other major US paper, we named names, revealing that government officials had indicated to Citigroup that it might have to raise additional capital. Meanwhile Francesco and Joanna Chung detailed discussions held by senior FDIC officials over whether Vikram Pandit will be fired if Citigroup needs more government money to survive.

Sarah O’Connor got great online following for her excellent scoop on how the US recession is opening up a huge gap between male and female unemployment. Tom Mitchell reported the head of China’s flagship sovereign wealth fund thanking European snubs for helping him save money on poor investments; Pan Yuk revealed that Heineken had snapped up GlobePub company’s debt; John Reed and Daniel Schafer reported GM was willing to dispose of its Opel/Vauxhall operations for nothing, and Nick Timmins reported threats to cut budgets of Whitehall departments that don’t achieve efficiency savings.

Kate Burgess, together with Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, revealed that Pearson had got the brush off from shareholders for a share placing. James Wilson and Ralph Atkins had an interview with Axel Weber, the Bundesbank head, in which he was highly critical of Brussels, setting off a row with the EU. Kathrin Hille revealed that even Chinese brands are now being hit by trademark pirates, while Nikki Tait unveiled EU plans to cap bankers bonuses. Tim Johnston and David Pilling had an interview with the Thai prime minister, while Gerrit Wiesmann, Alex Barker and Sylvia Pfeifer reported an Anglo-German row over paying for Eurofigher

Among notable analysis, Richard Lapper and Tom Burgis provided strong, colourful coverage of the South African election, Anousha Sakoui and John Reed explained the ramifications of a GM bankruptcy filing, Peggy Hollinger examined accusation of EDF spying, Ed Luce examined the marginalisation of the Republicans, and Najmeh Bozorgmehr explained how a potato distribution policy was causing a stir in the Iranian election.

Richard Milne in Business Life gave an insight into how companies were collaborating in low carbon businesses. Saskia Scholtes kicked off the US housing market series with a nice analysis of woes. Chris Flood wrote a very prescient piece on doubts over the base metals bounce, while David Oakley and Michael Mackenzie examined the perils facing the gilts market and Aline van Duyn delved into bondholders’ legal threats to the US government.

Notable Comment included Roula Khalaf on Arab concerns over Iran consolidating its power in the Middle East; Martin Wolf’s wonderfully sobering riposte to signs of green recovery shoots, and Lex on US bank stress tests.

Bernard Simon wrote a wonderfully colourful piece on the modern equivalent of the Tupperware party – selling your gold – while Saturday’s paper was full of great, engaging writing, with a particularly strong opinion page, featuring Matt Garrahan’s Man in the News on JJ Abrams, John Gapper on the new Yankee stadium, Chris Caldwell on the economics of piracy and John Kay writing superbly on Labour’s failure.

Arnie Wilson’s obit on Shane McConkey, the man who liked to ski off mountains with a parachute (with amazing video links online), was compelling, while Sam Jones wrote a fascinating magazine piece on the maths formula that brought down the world’s banks. House & Home had a nice design edition with a strong cover story on attempts to turn Milan into a more bustling city, while Money had a very strong set of pieces following up the Budget.

Finally, we wrote an excellent Saturday leader on the bond market and the UK government – as well as a very witty piece on the letters of the alphabet used to describe economic conditions.

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