Journalism has always been a competitive trade. But now the Financial Times has taken it one step further. The business newspaper has set up eBay auctions for readers to pitch bids in the hope of winning a quiet dinner with one of its 25 star journalists in a high-end restaurant. Among the revered list are some journalistic heavy hitters such as Gillian Tett and Martin Wolf. And, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, all proceeds go to a charitable cause.
The eBay auctions, however, are quite revealing. Which journalist’s companionship is ‘worth’ the most to you? Without realising it, the Financial Times has launched a candid popularity test of some of the most influential commentators on financial affairs. This is journalistic competition taken to a new level. The current leader of the pack is none other than Lucy Kellaway, an agony aunt for the wealthy middle-aged who, more often than not, are perennially stuck in mid-life crises. For £3,200 (or, indeed, more) you could both quietly dine at swish Skylon Restaurant overlooking the Thames in London.
In second place is Tett, who made her name reporting on the global financial crisis. For £2,100 you could both eat out at Le Bernardin, a three Michelin-star restaurant in New York. The bronze medal is currently going to Caroline Daniel, the editor of the FT Weekend magazine. All three women are superb journalists. But you wonder to what extent demand can be attributed to lonely businessmen who would jump at an opportunity to sit beside these delightful ladies for a night. Awkwardly, eBay lists the ‘delivery’ of each journalist as ‘estimated within 13-15 working days.’
And what of Martin Wolf, the newspaper’s chief economics commentator and possibly the most influential economics journalist in Britain? The man currently ranks a dismal fourth. For a mere £1,240, both you and Wolf can talk crisis at The Greenhouse in London. But for those of us who cannot shell out over a grand for the experience, there is always the option of dining alone – with Wolf’s column propped up against the water glass.