Di Stefano suspended from FT after accessing sensitive Zoom meetings at rival papers

Charlie Spargo's picture

The Independent has accused the Financial Times' media and tech reporter Mark Di Stefano of accessing sensitive Zoom conferences covering furloughing and redundancies at the online title as well as the Evening Standard.

Di Stefano has been suspended by the FT pending further investigation after The Independent claimed there was evidence that he had listened into both papers' conference calls, in order to break the news of the titles' financial decisions at the same time as staff themselves were learning about it.

Mark Di Stefano joined the Financial Times from BuzzFeed in January, and has become quickly relied upon for up-to-date media news and exclusives on the state of print and digital media.

The online-only Independent reports that log files for Zoom record that an account linked to Di Stefano's Financial Times email address joined the private conference call briefly, before leaving. Not long after, an anonymous account joined the call - during which financial plans for weathering the coronavirus storm were announced - for the remainder of the call, but this was shown to be linked to a mobile phone number which had been used by the reporter.

The same anonymous account joined an Evening Standard video call hosted on April 1st, during which editor George Osborne announced furloughing plans and salary cuts.

This goes against the Financial Times' code of conduct for journalists, which says they must not "[intercept] telephone calls, messages or emails" or engage in "misrepresentation or subterfuge" to gather information.

Christian Broughton, Editor of The Independent, said: “We respect freedom of speech and understand the challenges of news gathering, but the Independent considers the presence of a third-party journalist in a staff briefing to be entirely inappropriate and an unwarranted intrusion into our employees’ privacy.

“Our spokesperson had a full statement prepared for the press. Any interested reporters only needed to call and ask.”

An Evening Standard spokesperson said: “For a journalist from the FT to have illegitimately accessed a private Zoom call is unacceptable. We are sure the FT will want to offer an immediate explanation and an apology.”