What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation


The ‘Financial Times’ Editor Brooke Masters

I Hate Squishy Facts, but I Loved the Martha Stewart Trial

June 2, 2016

Brooke Masters is the companies editor of the Financial Times, based in London. She oversees global coverage of corporate news and writes a weekly column. A native New Yorker, Masters is the author of Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer. Before participating in a Zócalo/Smithsonian “What It Means to Be American” panel in London on whether America is still a British colony, Masters visited the green room to talk about her favorite place to take out-of-town guests, the most important year of her life, and her devotion to the New York Mets.

Q. What profession would you like to practice in your next life?
I’d like to be a fashion designer.

Q. What’s your favorite song about New York?
This is pathetic, but the song they used to play on Mets advertisements. [Starts singing.] “East side, west side … ” I was an absolutely fanatic Mets fan.

Q. What word or phrase do you use most often?
They come in phases. I get grief from people on the [editing] desk for using “squishy.” I don’t like stories that are squishy or facts that are squishy.

Q. What would you order for your last meal?
That’s a tough one. I love food. Probably steak and lobster and champagne.

Q. Where do you take out-of-town guests when they come to London?
Beyond the obvious like the Tower of London, places where they might not go—like Borough Market, which is a food market. You get a real international sense of London there.

Q. Who is your favorite American author of the last century?
Zora Neale Hurston.

Q. What was the most important year of your life?
Probably 1992. I met my husband, got my first really big promotion, and decided not to go to law school.

Q. Of all the white-collar crime cases you’ve covered in your career, which one was the most fun to cover and why?
Martha Stewart. It had everything—hundreds of groupies, Martha’s clothing to analyze. It was intellectually interesting because whether they were going to get a conviction was not clear. There was cotton candy and meat. It was perfect.

Q. What surprises you most about your life right now?
That I’m about to become a British citizen because of the referendum on leaving the EU. I think it’s a terrible idea and I want to vote against it.

Q. What does it mean to be American?
I think it means that we try to be better. We have higher aspirations for the world, for our country. We’ve been given so much, and we had a continent that wasn’t empty, but was fertile and wonderful. We built institutions that were great. We owe it to our grandparents and children to be something special, to be better.

*Photo by Ed Telling.