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Alan Rusbridger and Nick Davies to receive Media Society award

April 4th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Awards

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, and Nick Davies, the journalist who uncovered the extent of phone hacking at the News of the World, are to be this year’s recipients of the Media Society award.

In a release, the Media Society, a charity that campaigns for freedom of expression and the encouragement of high standards in journalism, said:

The Guardian’s revelations about phone hacking at the News of the World have not only been the biggest media story of the year, but have also triggered a public debate about the practices of the press, with potentially far-reaching consequences.

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian since the mid-1990s, has presided over the paper’s development from a broadsheet to its current Berliner format, and its embrace of online journalism. He is an eloquent defender of the importance of journalism for holding power to account.

Nick Davies, meanwhile, has demonstrated the highest qualities of persistence in his following of the biggest media stories in recent years, while his concern for the health and future of his craft is manifest: he is an outstanding advocate of the importance of good reporting as the basis for good journalism.

Last year’s Media Society award went to Michael Grade and the 2010 honour went to Melvin Bragg.

Nick Davies has been handed several awards in the past year, including the Paul Foot Award, journalist of the year at the Foreign Press Association Media Awards 2011 and the Frontline Club award.

In February it was announced that Rusbridger was to receive Harvard University’s Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Rusbridger and Davies will be honoured at a Media Society dinner on 24 May.

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Rusbridger: Guardian paywall ‘has not been ruled out’

March 25th, 2012 | 7 Comments | Posted by in Paid-for content

Part of a cartoon wall being created at the Guardian Open Weekend

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, today asked readers what they were prepared to give back to the news group in return for journalism: money, time or data.

The first option, to ask readers to pay for an online subscription, “has not been ruled out”, Rusbridger told a session called “what might the Guardian’s future look like?” at the Guardian Open Weekend.

He suggested readers could give their time, perhaps volunteering to work shifts when they would moderate comments from fellow readers, a suggestion that is perhaps equally as surprising and seemingly unlikely as the idea of the Guardian putting up a paywall.

The third option Rusbridger proposed was that readers share personal data, such as their postcode.

All three options aim to make or save money, helping to compensate for the “£40 million-a-year which walked out the door” with the rapid decline in newspaper advertising.

You have to work on the basis that [revenue] is never going to come back.

Rusbridger added:

There are huge opportunities for journalism but it’s going to be a period of intense change.

In the same session, Andrew Miller, CEO of Guardian Media Group, explained the group is focussing on brand building, saying sustainability via digital relies on far more than “banners and buttons”.

Miller said:

The newspaper is fantastic product but is one of many products that people use to consume news.

Miller commented on the revenue generated by the Guardian’s Facebook app, launched in September – which has been downloaded by eight million users in six months and which saw Facebook users read 19 million articles via the app last month – saying “we only make a few hundred thousand pounds” via the app.

Earlier this week Journalism.co.uk reported that the Guardian app has generated more money than it cost to build.

Also speaking in the session was Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of the Guardian US operation who seven months ago “took the Guardian-ness and put it in America”.

She talked about how the “audience is growing substantially” in the US.

We are trying to make [the audience] feel they are part of the international army of Guardian readers.

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NUJ: More newspaper bosses should take pay cuts

February 10th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism

The National Union of Journalists has welcomed news that Guardian News and Media editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger has offered to take a pay cut – and the union has called on other newspaper bosses to do the same.

The Guardian reported that Rusbridger would take a 10 per cent voluntary cut in the 2012-13 financial year, from £438,900 to £395,010. His pension contribution will also be reduced.

NUJ deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick said in a release:

“I welcome Alan’s response to the NUJ’s suggestion that he should take a pay cut and show a lead to executives within the industry at a time when many journalists face redundancy and pay freezes. I hope that others including Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, and Richard Desmond owner of the Express newspapers, will now be following suit.”

Trinity Mirror investors have expressed concern about Bailey’s pay package, almost £1.7 million in 2010. The company’s share price has fallen by 87 per cent in the past decade.

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Full Leveson inquiry statements from NUJ and Guardian

November 16th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Legal

Guardian's Alan Rusbridger speaking to the Leveson inquiry. Still taken from video

The Leveson inquiry into press standards heard from key industry figures today, including representatives for the National Union of Journalists, the Guardian and the legal representative of alleged “victims” given core participant status.

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ spoke first, describing the Press Complaints Commission as “little more than a self-serving gentleman’s club, and not a very good one at that”.

She also accused the system of having “failed, and abysmally so”. Her full statement to the inquiry has been published on the NUJ’s site here.

The inquiry also heard from editor-in-chief of the Guardian Alan Rusbridger, who has posted his statement in full online.

Near the beginning of his statement Rusbridger highlights the shifts which have taken place within the industry and are affecting journalists:

We also live in a world in which every reader becomes a potential fact checker. Social media allows anyone to respond to, expose, highlight, add to, clarify or contradict what we write. We have the choice whether to pretend this world of response doesn’t exist, or to incorporate it into what we do.

The more we incorporate it, the more journalism becomes, as it were, plastic. There will be less pretence that we are telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth about a story, frozen at the moment it is published – what Walter Lippman in 1922 called the confusion between “news” and “truth”. A journalist today lives with the knowledge that there will be an external reaction to much of what she or he writes within minutes of publication. Journalism today is often less a snapshot, more a moving picture.

Video of today’s hearing is available to view on the Leveson inquiry website here.

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Sky News’ @fieldproducer ranked most influential UK journalist on Twitter

November 7th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Social media and blogging

Sky News digital media editor Neal Mann, aka @fieldproducer (right), at Journalism.co.uk’s news:rewired conference in May. Image: Mousetrap Media

Sky News digital news editor Neal Mann (@fieldproducer), is the UK’s most influential journalist on Twitter, according to a new survey.

A study of more than 330,000 tweets by social media site Tweetminster and PR firm Portland found that Mann had retweeted and been mentioned 100,000 times between June and September, according to a Guardian report.

The Guardian’s media news site mediaguardian.co.uk (@mediaguardian) came second in the rankings, with Guardian News & Media editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger (@arusbridger), BBC presenter Andrew Neil (@afneil), and the Guardian’s main news feed (@guardiannews) making up the rest of the top five.

Channel 4 News economics editor Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) and presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy (@krishgm) are 11th and 12th respectively. FT digital media correspondent Tim Bradshaw (@tim) came in 19th, and the Independent’s foreign editor Archie Bland (@archiebland) was 20th.

Accounts belonging to the Guardian or Guardian writers took nine of the top 20 places.

Telegraph writers took four places between 20 and 30, with blogs editor Damian Thompson (@holysmoke) 25th, and 10 places in total.

Other notable entries include the Independent’s Johann Hari (@johannhari101), who has gone from being a prolific tweeter to rarely using the social network after facing allegations of plagiarism beginning in June.

Every account in the top 50 belongs to someone who writes for a major news outlet. (The total here is 51 as Jonathan Freedland (@j_freedland) works for both the BBC and the Guardian.)

The Guardian: 17

The Telegraph: 10

The BBC: 8

Channel 4 News: 5

The FT: 4

Sky News: 3

Indy: 3

The Times: 1

See the full top 50 on Guardian.co.uk.

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Reaction round-up on News of the World closure

The morning after the announcement that News International is to scrap the News of the World has predictably spawned a variety of reaction from the blogosphere.

Despite rumours that folding the newspaper in favour of a seven day Sun had been on the cards for a while (TheSunOnSunday.co.uk, TheSunOnSunday.com and SunOnSunday.co.uk were all registered on July 5, albeit by a private individual), a source at News International confirmed today that a Sunday edition of the paper wouldn’t be on the cards for several weeks to come.

This morning Times today led with a story that the collapse in advertising was due to online protest and the final nail in the coffin for the paper.

The withdrawal of advertising appeared to be in response to a public backlash that had been led primarily on the internet. Thousands of people had used Twitter and Facebook to express their outrage at allegations of phone hacking at the paper.

This was after a list of the News of the World’s advertising clients had been published online, encouraging people to send Twitter messages to the companies to express concern at the activities of the paper’s journalists.

You can read the full article here (behind the paywall).

Emily Bell, director of the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism and former director of digital content for Guardian News & Media sees the decision as part of a long line of bold and audacious moves from the Murdochs, from the bid to buy the Times, to the launch of Sky News, and recently the proposed takeover of BSkyB.

James’s Wapping moment sees him making a gesture he hopes will be grand enough to soften the focus of any phone-hacking inquiry, bold enough to allow the company to extricate itself from present trouble and, in the process, allow him to reshape News International around the digital television platforms he feels both more comfortable with and which are undoubtedly more profitable.

But what about the wider implications? Many are agreed that the decision is brutal and the loss of 200 journalists terrible, but Andrew Gilligan, London editor for the Sunday Telegraph, argues that it could also give way to a muzzled British press in the future. As talk turns to how press regulation should be managed, Gilligan says:

For be in no doubt: hateful as the behaviour of some journalists has been, we may now face something even worse. For many in power, or previously in power, the News of the World’s crimes are a God-given opening to diminish one of the greatest checks on that power: the media.

Regulation was also on Alan Rusbridger‘s mind yesterday, when he took part in a live Q & A regarding phone hacking (before NI announced the News of the World’s closure). Rusbridger drew attention to alleged weaknesses of the PCC (the code committee of which Rusbridger quit in November 2009) and the quandary of state v self-regulation. Today the Press Complaints Commission sought to defend its work following calls for it to be scrapped by both Labour leader Ed Miliband and prime minister David Cameron.

This hasn’t been a wonderful advertisement for self-regulation. The short answer is that, no, the PCC can’t go on as it is. Its credibility is hanging by a thread.

We did say this back in November 2009 when the PCC came out with its laughable report into phone-hacking. We said in an editorial that this was a dangerous day for press regulation – and so it’s turned out.

The PCC has this week withdrawn that report and has a team looking at the issues and at the mistakes it’s made in the past.

I don’t know how Ofcom could do the job without falling into the category of statutory regulation. Does anyone else?

On her blog former Channel 4 presenter Samira Ahmed also draws some comparisons with the past, saying that the affair is “only my second major moral outcry against the news media” during her twenty years in journalism, the first being the death of Princess Diana. Hugh Grant has won public approval over the last week or so because of his overt opposition to phonehacking, but Ahmed is wary of putting people like Grant on a pedestal.

Many celebrities understand the privacy trade-off with press coverage, or get their lawyers to settle a payoff. Incidentally we should be wary of deifying celebrities, such as Hugh Grant, who have publicly defended the principle of rich people taking out superinjunctions to cover up their bad behaviour, when there might be a legitimate public interest. But I’ve met ordinary people over the years whose suffering has been deeply compounded by salacious press intrusion.

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Phone hacking: Rusbridger answers questions on the ‘dark arts’ of Fleet Street

July 7th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers

This afternoon Alan Rusbridger has been answering questions from readers in the form of a live Q & A on the Guardian website.

The post quickly gathered a heap of comments – more than pages worth, below are Rusbridger’s replies to questions about whether hacking has been going on at other newspapers, media regulation and politicians’ reactions.

Question: Oborne goes on to allege you also warned Nick Clegg about Coulson’s activities. Is this true? If so, what were Cameron and Clegg told that is now in the public domain? What have they known all along?

Rusbridger: Peter Oborne is right. Before the election it was common knowledge in Fleet Street that an investigator used by the NotW during Andy Coulson’s editorship was on remand for conspiracy to murder. We couldn’t report that due to contempt of court restrictions, but I thought it right that Cameron should know before he took any decisions about taking Andy Coulson into Number 10. So I sent word via an intermediary close to Cameron. And I also told Clegg personally.

Question: Does the Guardian have any evidence of phone hacking happening at other British newspapers? If so, once the dust settles over NotW, will the Guardian widen its continuing investigation to these papers, too?

Rusbridger: I think the bulk of Nick Davies’s evidence relates to the NotW. He did write a more general chapter on the so-called dark arts of Fleet Street in his book, Flat Earth News

To be frank, it’s taken him all this time to land this one, so he’s hardly had time to look elsewhere so far.

Question: The past few days have had me genuinely wondering about what, if any, licensing requirements there are on running a newspaper.

If a broadcaster had been up to what the NotW were doing it would quite rightly have been pulled off the air. So what exactly does a newspaper have to do to lose its right to publish in the UK?

Rusbridger: I’m anxious about the notion of state licensing for the press. We got rid of that more than 150 years ago (date, someone?) and I wouldn’t want to see it back. In an age when anyone can call themselves a journalist I see difficulties of definition. Would Huffington Post have to get a licence? So, I think it’s probably unworkable as well as undesirable. But I’d be interested to hear other views.

Read the full thread of comments and questions here.

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Rusbridger: ‘If we want a PCC that is effective we will all have to pay more’

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, who has been and remains a vocal critic of the Press Complaints Commission, argued last night that the regulatory body should be supported and improved, not scrapped, and said the press will need to pay more to if it wants an effective regulator.

Delivering the Anthony Sampson lecture at City University London, Rusbridger, who resigned from the PCC code committee in November 2009, did not let up in his customary criticism of the body, calling it “ineffective” and its 2009 report into phone-hacking at the News of the World “utterly feeble”.

“How, MPs reasonably ask, can we as an industry argue that self-regulation works when it evidently failed quite spectacularly over phone hacking?”, he asked.

In March last year, speaking at a debate on self-regulation in the House of Lords, Rusbridger suggested the PCC might be “flying the wrong flag [and might be] better to rebrand itself as a media complaints and conciliation service and forget about regulation”.

But he argued last night that self-regulation remains preferable to statutory regulation, and called for the PCC to take a tougher stance on issues such as phone hacking.

He asked why it hadn’t written directly to News International over Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the heart of the phone-hacking scandal, to ask “why are you paying fees of someone likely to be involved in illegal activity?”.

The PCC, he said, needed to “do something which showed a vertabrae”.

I can’t imagine a fine than would scare News International, they’re just so big and rich. What scares them is the truth, they’re are scared of the truth coming out.

I put it to Rusbridger after the lecture that one of the things required to strengthen the regulator and allow it to undertake proper investigations would be better funding, and asked if, alongside his criticism of the body and calls for it to be improved, the Guardian should lead the way in making a greater financial contribution.

It’s difficult, it’s not lavishly funded and it’s clearly not set up to do something like a big investigation into phone hacking. I think if we want the kind of PCC that’s going to be effective we are all going to have to pay more. But that’s a pretty tough message if you work on the Yorkshire Post or the East Anglian Daily Times. Why should you pay more when by and large you’re not doing things that are going to require fantastically expensive investigation?

He acknowledged that the PCC did not have the funds to undertake thorough investigations, investigations “with teeth”, and said the press would have “to be a bit more creative about the way that we fund the PCC”.

It can’t just stagger on as it is, being completely ineffective because they shrug they’re shoulders and say ‘we haven’t got the power and we haven’t got the money’.

See Rusbridger’s full lecture at this link.

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#media140 – Jay Rosen’s eight points of the ‘great horizontal’

Press critic, writer and professor of journalism at New York University, Jay Rosen, presented eight specific points within his presentation titled The Great Horizontal at #media140 today.

He described the ‘great horizontal’ as when people are connected across to other people as effectively as they are connected up to “big media”.

You can see each of his points Tweeted from his Twitter account which can be viewed here.

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Alan Rusbridger on relationship with WikiLeaks: ‘things are quite difficult’

April 6th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Awards, Editors' pick

Last night Journalism.co.uk was at the Press Awards, where the Guardian was named Newspaper of the Year. At the ceremony the paper was praised specifically for its its coverage of the WikiLeak’s releases.

We caught up with Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger at the end of the awards, who said that while the current situation with WikiLeaks is “difficult” there will be more revelations to come.

I think WikiLeaks was the stand out story, not only nationally but also globally. I think it had a global impact and I think it will be historically significant. I can’t think of another story in my lifetime where a story created by a newspaper has become the most discussed thing in every capital city around the world. That was the stand out story.

At the moment things are quite difficult between WikiLeaks and the Guardian, because they just are, partly due to the communications. It’s very difficult to keep relation with people if you never see them and the only way of communicating is through encrypted text messaging.

I think there will be more revelations to come and I think lots of papers are going to be developing their own mini versions of WikiLeaks. One thing WikiLeaks has taught us is the importance of working out how to get information securely and publish securely and I think that’s been a valuable lesson for us all.

You can see the full list of winners from the Press Awards here.

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