Briefing Notes: The Economist

Katie Tiffin
Katie Tiffin 25th October 2022


Jonathan Rosenthal, Africa editor

Other contacts Health policy editor Health care correspondent Lead on COP27 Environment editor Horn of Africa correspondent Chief Africa correspondent Editor, By Invitation (Opeds)

Jonathan explained how The Economist has evolved from a magazine to an online news outlet – each edition of the weekly magazine should encapsulate key events and trends of the week and provide analysis. Most stories will be posted online a few days before they appear in the printed edition – the online piece will usually be slightly longer than the printed one.

The magazine is in a transition phase as it grows its online content and audience. 50% of subscriptions are online only and this is likely to grow in the future. They sell 150-200K copies of the magazine in the UK. They have around 1.2 – 1.5m subscribers. Half are in the US.

When Jonathan is commissioning he is doing so for an international audience. UK-focussed stories will go in the UK section, not in the Africa section. For example, a story about UK aid cuts will belong in the UK section, although if NGOs can document the real impact of these cuts in Africa then he may be interested.

Their articles are often short and concise – maybe 500-600 words. Jonathan commissions and edits the Africa section. The magazine is divided up into geographical sections. Africa/Middle East has 4-5 pages and Jonathan will usually have half of those pages. This equates to 2-3 stories a week. The challenge for him is to narrow down and pick those 2 or 3. He slightly over commissions.

He is interested in stories that have a narrow focus but shed light on a broader issue. They should be telling us something new or a new angle on a familiar story.

In the current edition of the magazine, there are two stories from Africa – one on kidnappings, extortion and crime in South Africa, the other on teenage pregnancies and high school fees in Zimbabwe.

Jonathan has two staff reporters – one in Johannesburg; the other in Dacca. He has four stringers on retainers – in Nairobi, Kampala and Nigeria. Tom Gardner was in Addis but has now been expelled.


Pitches can go direct to Jonathan or to a correspondent. You can copy him in as he likes to keep across things. They should be short and concise and grab his attention. If it is an embargoed report he needs at least 7-10 days advance notice so that, if he’s interested, he can get one of his team to look at it. He’s not worried about whether he is offered an exclusive or not.

He has a longstanding interest in the war in Tigray and is on the lookout for new angles. Similarly, with the Horn of Africa hunger crisis which he covered extensively in June/July.

Girls’ education is another topic of interest where he is always looking for a new angle.

He’s keen too on positive stories that show African agency – he doesn’t want all his coverage to be negative.

He’s working on two bigger pieces on Africa – one on food security and productivity; the other on poor governance in fragile states.

Jonathan also encouraged us to pitch ideas for the oped section called By Invitation. He is keen to get more African content but the bar is set high – the writer needs to be well known with something interesting to say! Pitches can go to Jonathan or the oped editor Miranda Mitra. They should be around 1,000 words.

MG, 25.10.22

Keep up to date with IBT news

Non-members can sign up to our mailing list here