A former editor of Guardian News and Media (1995-2015) chronicles the profound recent changes in journalism using the Guardian’s story as his primary illustration.
Rusbridger (Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible, 2013), now principal of Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford, shows us continually in his lucid and sometimes-alarming text that technological and cultural changes have occurred so rapidly that newspapers barely had time to inhale before their centuries-old institutions began to crumble, then to reassemble into something quite unrecognizable only a generation ago. The author also tells the tale of how the Guardian metamorphosed during his tenure—from a relatively small newspaper into a web-dominating news presence—but he also narrates the activities of some of the other media giants, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. He highlights the questions that the traditional media were asking themselves: Should we charge readers for online access? How much? And how? (Rusbridger tells us of plans that worked and others that failed.) Should we maintain a print presence? What should be the focus and display of our online offerings? Not surprisingly, the longtime editor of this progressive publication has some sharp words about Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, and the proliferation of (and accusations concerning) “fake news.” He also takes us through some of the key stories and issues of the time—and describes the Guardian’s involvement in them—including Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden and the issue of government secrets and the sometimes-contradictory right of the people to know. Evident throughout is the author’s patent pride in the Guardian and his disdain for writers, publications, and consumers that eschew fact in favor of bias and hype. Rusbridger ends on a note of hope—and concern: “Trust me, we do not want a world without news.”
In equal measure: informative, alarming, discerning, hopeful, proud, and humble.