Breaking News by Alan Rusbridger
Reflecting on his twenty years as editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger offers an examinations of the past, present and future of the press.
The print news media has been disrupted and challenged by the fast-moving changes in the models of technology. Rusbridger was at the forefront of that rapid change, battling the great unknown.
Breaking News documents his experiences of breaking some of the most significant news stories of our time, including the Edward Snowden revelations, phone-hacking, WikiLeaks and the Keep it in the Ground campaign.
It is a fascinating read. Not only does Rusbridger offer a peek behind the scenes of the media, his account offers a real-life case study of an industry having to adjust at rapid pace. He discusses at length his lived experience of adjusting to the physical transformation of the press from ink to screen. The rapid rise of social media, and how to combat falling readership and revenue, is analysed. Seeing the numbers in black and white makes for compelling reading about just how much our society has changed in such a short time.
Rusbridger’s strong journalism practices and ethics shine through, with well-detailed and researched notes, as well as a bibliography, accompanying the text. A graphic timeline showing his stint as editor alongside major developments and events in the world is also included. An index makes this recount an invaluable tool for aspiring, or current, journalists too.
The book does, however, offer more questions than it answered. Rusbridger doesn’t offer a way forward for print media, although his ideals are strong.
Interestingly his departure from the Guardian is also not discussed. After agreeing to become a chairman of the Scott Trust, the Guardian’s owners, the board had to withdraw its offer after staff rebelled. As a strong voice against paywalls, Rusbridger’s departure was also shadowed slightly by a loss of £58.6m in 2015, more than it could afford. His successor, Katharine Viner managed to stabilise the loss, but the rankings of news sites’ audiences showed the Guardian has slipped this year, compared to the highs Rusbridger boasts about.
As well as the rapid technological advance, he also documents a shift in society. From Trump’s ‘fake news’ slur to citizen journalism and the spread and speed of social media, Rusbridger is strong in his belief of a strong, independent fourth estate. He offers a stirring defence of why quality journalism matters now more than ever.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser
Allen & Unwin, RRP $36.99