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This year, Financial Times readers sent us tips and story ideas, joined our reporting and debates, and proposed solutions to some of the world’s trickiest problems. You also left a cool 1.3m comments.
To choose the best reader contributions is a near-impossible task, but we have highlighted some of our top picks here. As ever, we encourage you to share your own favourites in the comments below.
You told us how the financial crisis affected you
Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the global financial crisis in September, we thought we would look back to find out what effect the crisis had on the people whose jobs and finances were hit the hardest. What happened to the trader at Lehman who lost her job, the homeowner who bought low or the small business owner whose home was foreclosed? So we asked you to share your experiences, received hundreds of stories back, and published eight of the most striking in this feature.
TL;DR: The two small business owners who lost everything are still climbing out of a very deep hole. The reader who left Lehman ended up taking a job at Oxfam and now feels her work has infinitely more purpose. And the reader who made a profit on her house now works full-time in real estate.
You shared your expertise
Under a story about the long fight for a cure for PTSD, commenter Incognito, a former Army officer, suggested a possible solution:
I was an Army officer for over a decade, including Iraq and Afghanistan. As the saying goes, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.’ I contend that the MOD is deliberately not measuring PTSD and suicide in former service personnel, so that it can evade moral and financial responsibility for keeping them alive. There is a compelling moral case for newspapers to lobby for the Ministry of Defence to track former service personnels' wellbeing. This task would not impose on them, and would provide evidence of the scale of the problem.
Under Michael Skapinker’s column on the state of Birmingham prisons, commenter Stockwell shared a personal experience working in the UK prison system:
I spent most of working life in the prison system. When I started senior management were on the ground and in constant contact with prisoners. By the 1990's lot of them were finding excuses to stay in their offices. Over the next fifteen years, the management's retreat to the perimeter became more pronounced. Recently I met a Governor who made it clear, for instance, that the idea of someone of his grade spending time on the shop floor was so outdated as to be deemed prehistoric.
In response to 21-year-old FT intern Niamh Ní Hoireabhaird’s moving op-ed on the difficulty of navigating life as a disabled person, commenter Frag shared some personal advice:
I have been on a wheelchair for 25 years now (I am 55) and I would suggest to you the following:
1. Being able to do 50% of everything is a vast improvement to none
2. Life is unfair
3. Never give up
4. Life is unfair
5. You will perhaps accomplish less. The alternative is to accomplish nothing
6. Life is unfair
7. Celebrate your accomplishments, you have fought hard to achieve them
8. Life is unfair
9. Plan ahead and plan ahead and plan ahead. the alternative is far worse
10. Life is unfair
11. Life is wonderful no matter what. Concentrate on what you can do and can achieve. Skip the rest, as if they don’t exist
You are not a common person, you are a very special person with the courage to live life and enjoy it as much as you can. You can certainly do it!
You helped us brainstorm solutions
Research shows that one of the many reasons for declining trust in news is that readers feel they only see stories that scare and depress them. And honestly, barraging you with problems that have no solutions isn’t much fun for journalists, either.
You may have noticed that we have been hosting conversations between readers and journalists within the comment space below our articles. It’s called “The Question”, and the focus is on brainstorming solutions to important problems — together.
In one of our most successful examples, environment correspondent Leslie Hook and readers discussed solutions to the London’s air pollution crisis. It generated hundreds of ideas and a fruitful conversation. Here’s one idea, from commenter Meh:
This year, you also shared ideas for how to fix the Big Four auditors and Britain’s productivity crisis, and considered ways to improve political debate between people who disagree. If there’s a topic you’d like to brainstorm with journalists in the future, let us know in the comments below:
You had jokes . . . lots of jokes
Here are some of our favourites.
From Alphaville, a new fintech lexicon by wonky-tonk:
Any appetite for starting a FinTech lexicon? Some offerings:
- "Peer to Peer" = using a new intermediary
- "Soft infrastructure" = intangible assets
- "Thought leader" = will talk for food
- "Disruptor" = will talk for money
- "Accelerator" = concept office for showcasing real estate
- "Sprint" = brief internship
- "as a Service" = rented
- "Sharing economy" = rented
- "Cloud" = rented
- "Blockchain" = database
- "Mining" = environmental catastrophe
- "Proof of work" = lottery
- "Proof of stake" = plutocracy
- "Consensus" = surprisingly difficult thing involving a lot of politics
- "Digital nomad" = contractor
- "Digital native" = see millennial
- "Millennial" = marketing cohort
- "Platform" = balance sheet arbitrage
- "Gig economy" = labour rights arbitrage
- "Ecosystem" = fiefdom
- "Hyper-personalisation" = stalking
- "Paradigm shift" = change
- "AISP/PISP/PIISP/PCI-DSS/PSD2" = I work in payments. save me.
From ElFred, a Brexit simile:
Brexit is like pizza: non-food. A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.
Reader Judith Martin of Winchester, UK, wrote a letter responding to a column about how best to approach the F-word:
Use it properly, in full, wherever someone uses it in an interview. It’s juvenile and mealy-mouthed to do otherwise.
For the record, I’m 65, female, and could well be expected to belong to the cohort deemed too genteel for such four-letter words. But I don’t, and neither do the vast majority of my friends. I’m frequently amazed at the real language that was used by earlier generations, rather than the bowdlerised version my generation was brought up on. All the flippings and friggings, and other such absurdities, are merely irritating.
I may not be ready to have journalists themselves use such blunt language — although anyone who might call Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage a fucking liar would be fine — but reports of speech should be just that, not pissy little euphemisms. So go on, FT, be brave, reject the mealy-mouthed, and embrace the absence of asterisks.
You got deep into trade issues with James Politi
We have a number of topic-driven newsletters. In many, our journalists are in an ongoing email exchange with their readers. When our new trade correspondent James Politi took over the newsletter Free Trade in September, he introduced himself to you and asked for feedback, research, insights or a coffee with anyone living in DC. He was flooded with responses, including this, from reader Joe Zammit Lucia:
“Joe suggested that many of us have taken the wrong approach to watching trade in the age of Trump. ‘The world continues to change and for too long we have ignored the downsides of the international trading system as set up,’ he says. ‘Time to move on. Better to shift the debate into how best we redesign the system rather than bemoan [the actions of] Trump.’”
James is still regularly asking Free Trade readers questions and publishing their answers in his newsletter. So is US energy editor Ed Crooks in his newsletter Energy Source, and senior investment commentator Mike MacKenzie in his newsletter Market Forces.
David Hockney stopped by. Yes, the David Hockney.
In this letter, he shared his advice for longevity. It’s a bit weird:
Anjana Ahuja (“Britain must stop inflating the biomedical bubble”, July 17) says that some people think that we are living longer because of anti-smoking messages rather than better drugs. But smokers are living longer as well, and I was told by a doctor many years ago that what was making people live longer was the washing of hands and the cleaning of teeth. I instinctively believed this. I am still a smoker at 81 but I wash my hands and clean my teeth regularly. — David Hockney, Los Angeles, CA, US
You had strong feelings about big tech
Speaking of smoking, commenter RIW discussed similar withdrawal symptoms to social media:
Social media and smartphone connectivity are the new tobacco. Recently given up the first two, and having also given up tobacco I recognise the signs. Withdrawal is agonising. Tell you later if it is worth it.
Commenter Passenger shared his changed views on Facebook:
I used to believe Facebook was an amazing company. It kinda was. Now I just believe it's evil. Essentially, their business model involves deliberately exploiting vulnerabilities in human psychology to cause addiction, then selling your attention to the highest bidder. It is not advancing humanity — it is just distracting people with mindless nonsense.
We're not meant to stay connected to everyone we've ever met, like Facebook want us to. We're meant to move on, grow, and put our time and attention into forging new meaningful relationships in the present. Facebook want you to remain stuck in the past, reading daily updates about the life of some guy you knew back in high school. At least the inevitable backlash has finally begun…
You paid tribute to some of the greats
Here’s how muesli and tea described Anthony Bourdain:
His writing in Kitchen Confidential leaped out of the page, filling the reader with delight, fascination, disgust and awe, often all at once. I remember thinking: Wow! What a writer! What energy! What fizz! What unashamed honesty! The mussels festering in their own urine. The bacterial dangers of Hollandaise. Rectum-pecking chickens. The incessant stress, intense heat and proximity to sharp knives constantly provoking underpaid kitchen staff, characters in a gangsterish and merciless underworld. I needed to put down the book just to breathe again.
Here are commenter Nick’s memories of Stephen Hawking:
Summer 1998 Stephen Hawking gave a talk at the University of Crete campus in Greece. The event attracted quite a bit of attention not just by the students but by the locals as well, who flocked into the campus to hear the man speak. Excellent vibes all around, warm summer night, people sitting outdoors watching from huge screens since the main auditorium was absolutely packed. The talk must had an impact in some people's lives.
A month or two later I joined the same university to study physics. 5 years later I moved to London. Today I am sitting in front of my computer, pissing my life away, while coding some hedge fund's strategies. I can't help but feel some sort of nostalgia, contemplating where things went wrong.
You asked us anything
This year, we hosted six AMA’s (Ask Me Anything), live public Q&As with FT journalists on the website Reddit. These included deputy editor Roula Khalaf on Jamal Khashoggi’s death, Brussels bureau chief Alex Barker on Brexit and interactive journalist Steve Bernard on cartography and data visualisation. The conversations are rigorous and thoughtful, and nearly everyone has enjoyed them. Except for one user (that’s Alex’s editor, Malcolm Moore):
Meanwhile on Instagram, readers asked us hundreds of questions about Brexit and the financial crisis, which we put to our experts for these two very popular video features. Rob Armstrong, Katie Martin, Rana Foroohar, Robert Shrimsley and others answered questions — unscripted. Some of the most frequently asked questions included “Why haven’t more people gone to jail?” and “What the f*** is going on with Brexit?” (please forgive the asterisks, Ms Martin!)
You went running with us
When FT journalists Patrick McGee and Laura Noonan started training for the London marathon in 2019, they decided to bring readers along for the run, swapping tips along the way in a series called Fit Hacks. They also teamed up with an app called RunBet to create a special FT challenge in which 139 readers committed to a four-week running regimen. Each person put in £40. Those who dropped out lost their money. Those who completed it split the profits.
Here’s some advice from commenter Econ on how to keep on it:
I leave my flat keys in the health club locker in the morning. Hence, I am forced to go back and train in the evening.
Laura Noonan agreed:
I had a similar approach to long runs - always go “out and back”, bringing nothing except for keys and music. If you run 10m out, you have to get back somehow . . . so you might as well keep running.
You shared news tips
This year, the FT’s investigations team and the cyber security team created a page that gives you different options to contact us with confidential tips, including Signal (a messaging app), PGP/encrypted email, SecureDrop and post. You can check it out here and in the footer of every page on FT.com. We’ve received a number of helpful tips, including one from a retired geology professor. If there’s something you need us to know, that page is a good first stop.
You stunned Ed Luce
In January, Ed Luce ended his column, The discreet terror of the American bourgeoisie, with a question: “Do we love the highly educated? Do they deserve by virtue of credentials to be celebrated? Or should we revisit what we mean by a fair society? Answers sought by email or Twitter — but in correct English if you please.” As is standard on FT columns, the piece ended with his email address.
Ed came to us the next day stunned by the sheer volume — and quality — of the hundreds of responses that flooded in. He curated the best into this story. Here’s one submission, from reader Steve Roth:
The core hypocrisy of the meritocratic mindset, in my opinion, relates to wealth. US owners receive trillions of dollars in unearned income per year simply for …owning things. Roughly 60 per cent of US wealth — hence the income from that wealth — is inherited. It’s simply impossible to in any way justify this unearned income as resulting from “merit”. And this before even considering the opportunities that wealth and income deliver for wealthholding families. Arguably, “opportunity” is primarily a function of …having money.
And finally, the numbers
These are the topics that drove the most comments (they won’t surprise you): Brexit, European Union, and Donald Trump.
This is the story that attracted the most comments: Defiant Theresa May throws down gauntlet to Brussels, with 2,245.
This is the story that drew the most comment recommends: Men Only: Inside the charity fundraiser where hostesses are put on show.
Here is the most recommended reader comment:
And here’s the second:
Thank you all for joining us through another eventful and tumultuous year. Your contributions added insight, experience, humour and perspective to our work — and doubtless made it much better. We can’t wait to continue the conversation in 2019
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