Liberalism, Leadership, & The Fourth Estate

9780374279622_custom-5d7f03d8b126fd10509c68fad812ee37387aae6b-s600-c85When we started this platform in 2011 our primary interest in the Guardian was its excellent environmental reporting, and at least one opinion writer whose 2012 environmental views made him regularly welcome in our pages ever since. Today I can amplify how important this newspaper is based on an interview I just listened to with its former longtime editor, the author of this book to the right.

He mentions several points that I have been prone to believe over the last two decades, particularly about the poisoning of the well of public discourse by Rupert Murdoch’s approach to the business of media.

In the classic sense of liberal perspective that should make me think twice, so as not to lean into my own biases. He also helps me to understand the quite unique value of the Guardian, which I was also already prone to believe. Their endowment and general funding model, which I had only vaguely known about, is well explained in this interview and frankly, difficult as it is to be these days, inspiring. Careful as I may be about confirmation bias, I pass this suggestion along; listen to the interview here (just over half an hour), or read the summary below:

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On Dec. 3, 2013, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger faced questions from the British Parliament about his newspaper’s decision to publish material leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Alan Rusbridger knows a thing or two about high-stakes journalism.

During his 20-year tenure running the British newspaper The Guardian, he collaborated with NSA contractor Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on blockbuster stories drawn from secret government documents. Though Rusbridger left The Guardian in 2015, he remembers the stress vividly.

“We were publishing every minute of the day around the world,” he says. “It’s a matter of deadlines and never enough information and people trying to sue you and generally harass you.”

And just as The Guardian was covering these massive stories, Rusbridger was also dealing with serious challenges to the journalism industry itself. While many newspapers at the time were establishing paywalls, under Rusbridger’s watch, The Guardian created an economic model in which online users were asked — but not required — to pay for the newspaper’s content. It’s a model that seems to be working.

“Last week, my successor’s editor announced they now had a million readers who are now contributing to The Guardian in order to keep it open to everybody,” Rusbridger says. “I think that’s rather miraculous. It’s called philanthropy, and that people want to be philanthropic about news is amazingly encouraging.”

Rusbridger now serves as chair of the steering committee at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. His new book is Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why it Matters Now.

 

 

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