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The Sunday Express' City editor, Geoff Ho, talks scoops, solar death rays and Fleet Street monsterings

Geoff Ho:

Geoff Ho: "There are groups of PR people whom I rate."

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 Everyone talks in the end. You just have to find out how to get to them

Geoff Ho

How do you feel as you come into work?

Calm and content. It’s the start of a brand new working week and who knows what that will bring?

Why do you do this job?

Because I love it and there is nothing else I would rather do. When I was young, I wanted to be either a sports or war correspondent. As I grew older, it turned out that my interests and abilities meant I was more suited to the financial/business news side of things. I am incredibly lucky and grateful that I’m in a trade I love.

As a child I wanted to be…

Either a journalist or the first Asian person to play for Manchester United. Thankfully I managed to achieve one of those goals. There were the odd moments when I thought about becoming a pilot or a doctor, but journalism was always the one for me.

What is the worst time to pitch to you?

When I’m on deadline on Friday.

What is the best time to pitch to you?

As early in the week as possible. Tuesday works best for me.

What makes a great story?

A combination of things: urgency, a sense of shock, a human element and it must affect a lot of people in scale and scope.

What is your view of PR professionals?

PRs are what they are. Some are excellent, some are average and some are appallingly bad. Most do a professional job and I respect them for it.

The one thing that gets in the way of doing my job is…

Time and space constraints.

Are there any subjects you find so boring or offensive you just won’t give them oxygen?

There is always something worth covering regardless of how I personally feel about an industry or sector. My job is to put aside how I feel about something and judge it on its merits.

The biggest non-story of the past month was…

"Walkie Scorchie solution close." When they solve the solar death ray (the Fenchurch Street office block that melted cars during the summer) that’s a story.

What gives you the biggest satisfaction in your job?

First there’s the thrill of landing a scoop and seeing it go into print, online, etc. Then the privilege of seeing the people you work with develop and excel. Then the feeling of satisfaction that comes from opening the Sunday papers and knowing that your pages are competitive, that you have been able to put out a good product.

What is the greatest pressure on you?

Time. There is simply not enough of it.

What is your management style – shouter, weeper or supportive friend?

Supportive friend. I ask questions and then help and encourage people so they can accomplish what I task them with. Shouting may be necessary at times but ultimately becomes counter-­productive. Over time, the old Fleet Street method of management by monstering brings diminishing returns. People become too scared or alienated to produce their best work. This is not a business for shrinking violets, but bullying is despicable and I have seen shouters cross the line far too often. But weeping in front of people is a no-no. Show weakness like that and your authority is shot.

Do you have a favourite PR person? Why?

There are groups of PR people whom I rate. These people are professional; they tell me quickly whether or not they can help me with my query and do not waste my time.

Which outlet do you most admire for its news coverage and why?

Sky News, for its relentless desire to be first with everything. It has some exceptional people and it regularly gets the drop on the BBC.

What is in your lunch box?

Nothing. I normally get something from a deli or sandwich shop or am at a meeting in a restaurant.

In five years’ time I will be…

If I knew that I would either be psychic or capable of time travel.

What is the best piece of journalistic advice?

Everyone talks in the end. You just have to find out how to get to them.

If I weren’t an editor, I would be…

Writing about banks doing bad things.

From whom have you learned the most?

The three people who taught me the most were Jerry Lacey, who gave me my first full-time job in financial journalism, Len Roberts, the editor at Professional Pensions, and Lawrie Holmes, one of my predecessors at the Sunday Express.

This article was first published on prweek.com


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