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Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now

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We are living through the greatest communication revolution since Gutenberg. In Breaking News Alan Rusbridger offers an open, personal and agenda-setting account of how we arrived at the news world of today.

The President of the United States regularly lies to the public and accuses anyone who criticisms him of being fake. Politicians openly rubbish the views of 'so called experts', dissemble and mislead. So how do we hold those in power accountable? Fox News, Breitbart Media and the Murdoch papers peddle views not news, pushing politically-motivated agendas. So, where can we look for reliable, verifiable sources of news and information? What does it mean for democracy? And what will the future hold?

Reflecting on his twenty years as editor of the Guardian and his experience of breaking some of the most significant news stories of our time, including the Edward Snowden revelations, phone-hacking, wikileaks and the Keep in the Ground campaign, Rusbridger answers these questions and offers a stirring defence of why quality journalism matters now more than ever.

465 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 6, 2018

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Alan Rusbridger

17 books23 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 94 reviews
Profile Image for Ian Beardsell.
225 reviews24 followers
September 9, 2019
I picked this up off the library display shelves and was very glad I did! It was like being invited by an old-school pressman for an extended lunch at his club off Fleet street.

Indeed, Alan Rusbridger uses a personable tone, bringing you into the world of newspaper life of the last 30 years, especially focusing on his experiences with the wild ride through his time as editor of the Guardian. This period from the mid 1990s to 2015, saw the greatest upheavals of the digital age upon newspaper journalism. It literally was the age for "breaking news", as newspaper editors, their teams, and their owners floundered to find a new model to replace the quickly vanishing old one of physical newsprint, advertising revenue, and passive readers who had no alternative print sources for their daily news. Instead, within the span of 20 years or so, the model was turned on its head, as in the digital age anyone could spin a story and put it out for public consumption at the drop of a hat, and the click of a mouse.

Rusbridger takes us from the early days of the internet, the advent of social media, and through to the rise of "fake news", and he makes it doubly interesting by interjecting the tough decisions that came with large stories of the day, such as Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, Cambridge Analytica and the like. M0st importantly, perhaps as it was a key question that Rusbridger and others in the news business kept coming up against, he spells out that our society really needs to decide what journalism is about as we go forward: What does good journalism look like? Who does it serve? What does the public need to know? Are there limits, and if so, what are they?

If you have ever been curious as to what goes on behind the scenes in the sausage-making of daily news, I think you will find this a most impressive and important read.
Profile Image for Hannah.
311 reviews17 followers
May 29, 2019
History, memoir, and treatise on the problematic and uncertain future of journalism, this book is engaging, well-written and quite possibly essential reading. Sometimes these competing narratives are at cross purposes, sometimes they allow for striking and nuanced observation. This book explores not only the shifts within journalism itself, but our changing society and it’s interaction with news, facts and truth. Does it have the answers? Not at all, but it does offer a foundation from which society may be able to crawl it’s way out of the cesspit that is modern media.

He is critical but never dismissive of technology - his editorship began alongside the internet and its progress, disruptions, confusions and opportunities were his constant companions. It began with discussion boards ("At their most unpleasant they were scrappy, almost wild... some of them were... 'utterly batshit'... At their most obsessive they were a place where lonely pseudonymous souls would argue for days about the relative merits of tinned or dried chickpeas... and then there would be threads that endlessly warmed, sustained, amused, diverted, educated and enthralled... There was not one porn post." (p. 67)) and he ended in the midst of social media as we know it now (the above description probably still applies. With added porn though). The whole process was largely done blind by both sides of the technological divide:

"That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in place... Even the revolutionaries can't predict what will happen." (as observed by Clay Shirky p. 134)

The book is ultimately about the worthiness and purpose of journalism, and how that should underpin news organisations - journalism as art-form and vocation rather than product. He tackles head on the issues and complexities of ownership models (hi Rupert, but also the Barclay brothers who may be even worse because of the secrecy surrounding them), and the implications these have for both journalism and society at large. His chapters on the response by the press to the Leveson inquiry (and the phone hacking scandal for that matter) and the stark divide in the US and UK responses to Edward's Snowden's whistle-blowing are illuminating. He calls into question of interpretation of what 'in the public interest' really means ("where is the ethical framework that might help his decision on whether or not to publish... what if there were multiple interests, on contradicting another?" (p. 317))

At the same time though he is not snobbish about journalism, and is exceedingly open and encouraging of broadening the base from which the news we consume comes from:

"Those who believed this had contempt for large parts of what Web 2.0 represented. They would curl their lips as they spat out the phrase 'citizen journalist'. 'Would you like a citizen brain surgeon for a tumour?' they sneered. 'How about a citizen dentist?'. As if reading two books plus-a-bit-of-shorthand to 'qualify' as a journalist was the equivalent of six years of a neurosurgical residency on top of a four-year medical degree to be a brain surgeon."

I have a journalism degree, and old-hat journalists who cut their teeth working their way up the newsroom ladder were pretty snobby about people with those too.

Some may argue that much of the ‘evidence’ veers towards anecdotal, but to my mind Rusbridger is more than qualified to give examples as he sees fit. And the personal tone adds a lighter quality to the book that certainly makes it more digestible. He happily ends chapters on cliff hangers. Than man uses eclipses! I loved the irreverence of it, but other may find it distracting or downright absurd given the topic. Take this classic example:

“That gave some clarity. But the real story was more complicated. And far more interesting...” (p. 278)

Or this one before he launches into chapter 19, which looks at Wikileaks:

“In a separate universe a young Australian called Julian Assange was hell-bent on revolution. He despised journalists. But he had hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents in his backpack and was beginning to feel desperate...” (p. 243)

“But the bleaker the financial figures, the tougher the immediate argument for investigative journalism became to sustain. And it was about to become even harder.” (p. 162)

Or my personal favourite, the one that just ends with “And then came Facebook”(p. 133)


He loves a repeated succinct line too - for example: “Old debates, new echoes”, “views first, news later”, “reach before revenue”.

By the end of this book I was left thinking less about what we do know and more about what we don’t. Without the Pentagon Papers, or Watergate, or countless other journalistic investigations what kind of world would we live in? And not to sound too paranoid, but what about the things we don’t know?

"It didn't require much knowledge of history to know how the government or administration of the day will regularly insist it is not in the public interest to publish something. The greatest joournalists didn't meekly acquiesce... That's what the Fourth Estate meant - an institution that stood apart from, and independent of, all other centres of power." (p. 319)
Profile Image for jasmine sun.
131 reviews146 followers
July 27, 2020
I'd been looking for this book for a long time. as trust in mainstream media falls to an all-time low, tensions grow between the tech companies and their reporters grow, and publications scramble to wane themselves off fickle Facebook ads, I desperately wanted context on the business side of the media industry.

what institutional incentives and trade-offs did publications face? has corporate accountability journalism always been so controversial? how have journalists adapted their storytelling as social media builds its own niche?

Alan Rusbridger, ex-EIC of The Guardian, answered these questions at more in this memoir-slash-commentary on journalism's digital disruption. by its sheer length, it's easy to see that Rusbridger is a reporter at heart. from The Guardian's early days experimenting with web forums to a rich chronicle of how he navigated the Snowden leaks (one of my favorite chapters), his storytelling lets readers get deep into the head of an editor balancing a philosophical commitment to a free press with competing financial, legal, cultural, and public pressures. this book can be slow at times due to the richness of detail, but it's fine to skim through chapters you find less relevant and drill into the depth of the ones that are.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Rusbridger understood the implications of Web 2.0. he clearly respects the power of the internet - that the public can do some tasks (commentary, personal narrative) better than professional journalists, that the social media has held newspapers to account in a new way, that he's been forced to prove the value of their reporting instead of relying on inertia to carry subscriptions. additionally, Rusbridger outlines clear, thoughtful principles for a new "open journalism," the implications of treating journalism as a product vs. a community vs. a public service, and other promising paths forward for a symbiotic relationship between tech, media, and the public.

finally, his ultimate call is to rebuild trust by being honest about what journalism is supposed to be. as candidly explained by David Broder, it's "partial, hasty, incomplete, inevitably somewhat flawed and inaccurate... but the best we could do under the circumstances" - and yet, with its role in supporting an informed and democratic public, still a service worth doing.
Profile Image for Jessica Dai.
125 reviews48 followers
November 14, 2020
so this book was super interesting, but not necessarily a page-turner. it took me an inordinately long time to finish this book, because it made me sleepy really quickly.... sorta like a vegetables book, but I'm also a vegetable person so it works out.

it's really wild to think about -- and I hadn't actually considered before I read this -- that the internet and I pretty much grew/developed/matured at the same time, which means that many of the things I took for granted about the internet while growing up were actually super new; e.g. I would read/research news articles in middle school, something I assumed had always been possible (or at least had been possible for a while), but tying those dates back to the dates mentioned in this book I'm now realizing that that was actually quite a novel way of interacting with information online.

I also found it interesting that content moderation -- the subject of recent/ongoing criticism and controversy re: the social media giants -- was a concern that journalism (or at least the Guardian) was thinking about years before it became part of the mainstream discourse in the context of social media.

overall I found this to be a good look at the "business side" of journalism, and in the meantime also makes the case for why (a) independent journalism is critical for healthy societies and (b) why journalism/the press as an institution is still necessary (and e.g. can/should not be subsumed by individual blogs or substacks). rusbridger takes us through the (british) press's existential crises over the past few years (of which they are many), and while some of them verged on absurd to me (so what if the size of the print paper is changed by an inch?) it was still an incredibly enlightening read.
Profile Image for Vasil Kolev.
1,039 reviews163 followers
October 11, 2018
Very interesting insight into the Guardian (which seems to be one of the few remaining usable newspapers), their transition to a "digital" (online) publication and how they managed it without killing the paper, and journalism in general. This should be one of the books anyone interested in media should read.
(and the parts about Wikileaks and Snowden are a good introduction to the matter, for anyone who had lived in a cave in the last 10-15 years :) )

It's not as comprehensive as I would've liked it to be, but is still informative and seems to be the pretty much the only one of its kind.
Profile Image for Chris Bookley.
134 reviews1 follower
January 20, 2020
I got a lot more out of this than perhaps others would, but still an interesting read.
Profile Image for Shanti.
1,058 reviews24 followers
October 19, 2018
I have been raised as a Guardian person, and I adore the Guardian—enough that I donate to them (not much cause I’m skint) every month, and many of my favourite journalists work at the guardian, and I appreciate their content so much and their app is great and yadayadayada. I have mostly been paying attention to the Guardian since Katherine Viner was editor though, but I thought that this would be interesting.

I was just aware enough of the news (thanks to the Guardian weekly haha) at the time of the phone hacking that I had some idea of it, and I know sort of about Edward Snowden, because my dad is a big fan and of course the Oliver Stone movie, but it was fascinating to learn more about these things from the perspective of the people who really made them happen. The Guardian is a very cool organization. And as an avid consumer and kinda producer of news content, I appreciated some of the insight into the contemporary nature of news that Rusbridger offered.

I have to admit, however, that the book becomes less compelling as it goes along. I read the first two thirds almost without breaks; I was working in Indonesia at the time, and I would flip through the pages as I took notes in hotels, waited for people to finish their smoke breaks, wandered through dire apartment complexes, hesitated in traffic etc. But it all became a bit much. this is partially, I think, because the book is long. Alan Rusbridger is totally thorough, and that is good, but at the same time, the promotion of the Guardian was somewhat unrelenting. I had hoped to learn more about who he was, other than a couple of references to his early days of reporting and stress. Also, all the Fleet Street politics, though obviously important if you work in the British media, didn’t interest me all that much.

Rusbridger never quite goes all the way; he cannot critique his own newspaper, or acknowledge mistakes he made (even the financial ones) or just adbit that not everyone wants the same thing from a newspaper that he does. In the second half of the book, he gets mired in the details, or else is over eager to make mostly dire (but just hopeful enough not to sound entirely dire) generlisations. This is very relevant to traditional Westerm media and I definitely gained a lot of insight from it. But it is not everying (more recommendations for books about newspapers, and more fun ones at that, are welcome! Novels count too!)
Profile Image for Ian Rose.
Author 10 books3 followers
February 23, 2019
One of the most important books on one of the most important topics of our time. We all have opinions on the state of news and information, but this is a vital record of how we got where we are and, if not a solution, a ray of hope for how facts survive the churn. Not a quick read but worth it.
18 reviews2 followers
February 22, 2019
Fascinating Book About the Guardian Newspaper

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian from 1995-2015, has written an important book about publishing one of the most highly esteemed newspapers in the English speaking world. The challenges of establishing the newspaper online, the demise of advertising revenue, and the challenges of a newspaper disclosing corruption and Edward Snowden’s
Copies of The U.S. National Security Agency documents are all described in detail. Mr Rusbridger is an excellent writer who gives you an intimate account of 20 years of Guardian history.
I was so impressed by the high principles of the Guardian that I now get it online and have donated money to assure its survival. I already subscribe to the New York Times and the Washington Post online. I will be interested to see how the Guardian supplements these highly regarded newspapers.
53 reviews1 follower
January 25, 2021
This is a fascinating read for three reasons:
- the insight behind the scenes into some modern media scoops like the Snowden papers
- it’s a real life strategic case study of an industry having to respond to fundamental changes which threaten its very existence
- it reminds me about the importance of an objective, free and values based media which seems increasingly rare
452 reviews
February 19, 2019
This may be the most important book I have read in the last ten years. Alan Rusbridger was editor in chief of The Guardian from 1995 to 2015, during a time of incredible social and technological change. Following the outlines of that change in the world of the newspaper is a way of understanding how radically we have all changed in our social, physical, mental, and spiritual lives.
Profile Image for Rishabh Srivastava.
152 reviews144 followers
July 3, 2019
Phenomenal book by Guardian’s editor of 20 years. Offers a raw look at the industry — with all its glory, warts, potential for impact, and internal politics. The author also does a phenomenal job at underplaying his own achievements, and telling the story as dispassionately as one might reasonably expect from one so involved in it.

Highly recommended for anyone in the media industry.
Profile Image for Janne Elvelid.
4 reviews2 followers
December 19, 2022
Incredibly insightful about the changes in journalism and internets impact on media businesses
710 reviews6 followers
May 29, 2019
Rusbridger relates the roller coaster ride it was as editor of the Guardian from 1995 till 2015. He took control of the paper at the advent of the internet and the struggle to keep up with technological change never ends. It's a stressful time for all newspapers as advertising revenue dries up and traditional readers of news move elsewhere. Slowly but surely Rusbridger pulls the Guardian into the 21st century- a website is built and financed, live blogging is experimented with and readers' commentary is included in news coverage. The question of whether to set up a paywall for digital news lingers as does the whole question of whether digital news will ever produce substantial revenue. This book also covers major media stories including the phone hacking scandal which rocked British journalism and the leaking of NSA files by Edward Snowden both of which Rusbridger played a major role in. Very important memoir delving into major journalistic questions.
2,175 reviews32 followers
November 5, 2018

“To be a journalist in these times was bliss-for us, anyway. I’m afraid we felt a bit superior to those without the same access to information that we enjoyed. It was easy to confuse our privileged access to information with ‘authority’ or ‘expertise’. And when the floodgates opened-and billions of people also gained access to information and could publish themselves-journalism struggled to adjust.”

So says Rusbridger in the introduction to this book, expressing his fears and doubts in a rather frank manner. As many who pick up this book, will probably know, Rusbridger was the editor of the “The Guardian” from 1995 to 2015. In many ways this is a long love letter to the paper and could just as easily be called, “Why I Believe The Guardian Is Wonderful”, which may grate on those who do not agree with him.

I am a big fan of his long term work colleague and pal, Nick Davies, who has done some great work and written some fine books over the years. I am aware of all the many high profile stories that Rusbridger has been involved in over his editorship and so I was really interested to see what he had to say.

He traces the origins of the paper back to the Peterloo massacre, which triggered a series of events that saw John Edward Taylor, a Mancunian business owner, create “The Manchester Guardian” which came into being in 1821. In 1959 it changed to “The Guardian” and in 1961 it moved premises to London.

“Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” as C.P. Scott, a long term editor of the paper once said, a sentiment that is possibly more relevant and important than ever. Without doubt Rusbridger’s time at the paper was an era of phenomenal change and upheaval in the news and publishing industry. Along with the emergence of the internet and all of the tax shy, regulation dodging multi-billion dollar behemoths that came along with it. There were many high profile law suits and trials and campaigns that made for a fairly intense and colourful journey.

We get a really interesting modern history of the paper, which includes the likes of the price war with Murdoch, the libel case with Jonathan Aitken. We get all the drama and revelation surrounding Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, each story was a game changer in its own way and shows how vital and influential “The Guardian” and papers like it are throughout the world.

He goes into some detail about various other British papers, their ethics, their motives and the people behind the stories, we get some really interesting insights into the Barclay twins who own “The Daily Telegraph” and the vitriol from the likes of Paul Dacre, Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks and Kelvin MacKenzie. As he says of MacKenzie, “It was all good fun until it wasn’t” he later goes onto say of him, that he ruled in “An era of considerable bigotry, cruelty and prejudice rather than wit, brio and much envied (and imitated) professionalism.”

“Reach before revenue.” and “News before views.” are just some of the mantras that seem to keep popping up throughout his recollections. Much of this book focuses on his paper’s website. I had no idea how popular or successful the website was, but the author ensures that he tells us time and time again and in plenty of detail too, breaking down the details, which can sometimes grow a little tiresome and tedious. But overall Rusbridger makes for really good company and this was a thoroughly enjoyable memoir, and it should be of particular interest to fans of the paper and those who enjoy brave, high quality journalism.
Profile Image for Denise.
20 reviews
February 13, 2019
I really enjoyed this book but also felt that it could have benefitted from Rusbridger turning more of a critical eye to his own paper (in the same way that he does for rival publications). Having said that, it does a great job of capturing the anxiety that many journalists felt as the industry shifted to a digital-first model. I could see a few sections -- such as the parts about newsroom management or analytics -- being a bit dry for some readers (particularly those who aren't in the industry), but the epilogue alone is a masterclass in contemporary journalism and should be required reading for all incoming J-school students.
Profile Image for Jansen Cümbie.
7 reviews4 followers
June 15, 2020
Took me awhile to get through the first half of this. However, things pick up once Rusbridger gets into the 2010s and starts covering the challenges of running a newspaper in an post-truth/post-gatekeepers of journalism era. The Wikileaks/Snowden chapters and the Epilogue are stellar.
Profile Image for Charmaine.
226 reviews
April 28, 2022
This was really enjoyable surprisingly! It was really raw and enlightening into what journalism looks like and is becoming.
47 reviews1 follower
April 13, 2021
Alan Rusbridger attempts to contribute to the discussion of "what news should be," this question being forced upon him and his industry due to the digital revolution upending the funding model of news producers, as well as giving individuals more scope to receive news from non-journalists (e.g. on facebook or twitter). The book is mostly an account of the difficulties Alan faced during his time at the Guardian, and how these difficulties forced these questions into the open.

The first difficulty was the funding model. Newspapers used to get a large amount of revenue through classified adverts (people paying to advertise there), but ebay, gumtree, etc. and sources like this made adverts free for individuals. In combination with this, readers expected news to be released digitally to be free - if the papers charged for this they were liable to lose a huge number of readers (and further reduce advertising revenue). Print revenue was declining. This was a terrible storm of funding revenue changes.

This change in funding model resulted in newspapers being far more dependent on advertising money. Advertising money comes more easily from more views - and views come more easily from 'clickbait' and other articles that lead many to question what kinds of things journalists should be reporting. Should the Guardian and other papers lessen their focus on providing quality journalism to ensure a more secure stream of funding? With Alan at the helm, this fortunately was not a required change.

The other change was that the digital revolution allowed journalism to become a back and forth process. In the past, journalists would write articles and be done with it - now journalists can see the readers' response to their articles in real time. They are able to correct mistakes or add detail if they wish, and readers are able to dispute any claims publicly, and not just in the quiet of their own homes or circles. Should journalists engage with all the debate about their articles, or let it play out? Should journalism also involve the readers?

With facebook and twitter, essentially anybody would be able to comment on what they liked. And they are free to make claims as they please, regardless of the how true or accurate they are - how are readers supposed to know if what they read is well sourced and accurate news, and what is noise and disinformation? Do journalists have a responsibility to discourage these 'improper' news sources?

The number of questions that have to be asked, none of whose answers are very clear, is honestly terrifying. I believe news should inform readers, and develop their knowledge - but it should also do this in areas that are important to society. Celebrity stories and car chases, although entertaining or thrilling, do not develop our knowledge in a societally beneficial way. Trends in celebrity circles might, and data on the change in the number of car chases (and why these have occurred and the consequences of them) however does seem to be socially relevant.

We are going forward with this developing landscape of journalism, and I am hoping secure funding models that do not compromise the independence of the journalism (particularly who journalists can criticise or what they can report on) make further headway. I hope my act of paying for a subscription (the Economist), and staying away from clickbait articles helps nudge journalists to the kind of place I would like to see, even if I don't know what it is myself.
Profile Image for Heidi.
450 reviews23 followers
March 7, 2019
I've been spontaneously mentioning how much I love this book for days.

The author is a British journalist who eventually became the editor of The Guardian. The author writes about becoming a journalist at a local paper covering neighborhood meetings and local soccer clubs then moving through his career until he's editing The Guardian newspaper. He talks about the changes to the mechanics of journalism during that time - going from unions and moving to computers to changing business models and ethical practices. He also talks about some of the biggest stories - the phone hacking scandals that rocked the British press and releasing Edward Snowden's information despite the objections of the intelligence community. Rusbridger also gives a history of The Guardian newspaper and treats it lovingly throughout.

The rest of his industry doesn't fare quite as well, with his criticisms of tabloids and crony treatment being particularly strong. It's interesting reading and interesting how many ethical failures he points out. The legal framework of journalism is discussed in real-world terms as he discusses the use of gag clauses and whether the right to publish photos of a romantic affair is the same as the right to publish information on leaking chemical plants - writing about the specifics of real-term incidences. He talks the money side of that - the legal costs of libel costs and the role of a newspaper as a protector of journalists, also including in cases of ransom & misadventure for foreign war correspondents. He writes about the responsibility of newspapers when dealing with whistleblowers - the responsibility to release and also to select what to release. He's largely discussing Snowden and Wikileaks, and a point he returns to is the selectivity of an editor is a benefit to the governments in this case. Wikileaks has the, now famous, "just put it all out there and let the people sort it out" ethic. The Guardian did not - and that allows for a whistleblower to reveal sensitive information in safer ways.

The changing business of journalism is covered to: price wars, format choices, revenue models, the loss of classifieds to Craigslist and the surprisingly enduring value of Autotrader. He talks about this in word count, content categories, ethical distribution, and the niceness of readers in real life versus the comment threads. Some of it is more specifically British, with a lot of comparison to other UK newspapers that I'm not familiar with, but some of it is worldwide.

Overall if you're interested in journalism or how information has and should or could be shared read it.

'Read' in audiobook form through the Libby app and the SF Public Library.
260 reviews3 followers
March 28, 2019
This is an important book about the enormous challenges facing newspapers and journalism today. Alan Rusbridger was editor of the Guardian for twenty years ( 1995-2015) and he describes these tumultuous years, particularly the technological revolution that altered his industry. The digital wave swept away the traditional model of a newspaper, where journalists toiled all day to put an edition
“ to bed” in the evening, so that a newspaper could arrive on our doorstep in the morning. But first the Internet, then Facebook and Twitter and other social media changed the game. How to modernize the Guardian? How to develop a digital news platform while conserving the traditional newspaper? And, most importantly, how to make it all financially viable? How can the revenue be found to pay the salaries of the investigative journalists and keep independent journalism alive? These are all fundamental questions in our democracies. This is even more important in an era of fake news, where efforts are made to undermine the credibility of the media.
Add into the mix challenges surrounding the publication of sensitive national security information following the revelations of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, lawsuits taken against the Guardian, its reporting on the News of the World and the phone hacking scandal, and the desire to make The Guardian a global news source, and one can see that Rusbridger’s plate was full! I enjoyed this book because it reveals the challenges of putting broad principles into practice on a daily basis. The Guardian team had to find its way forward during this technological transformation that redefined its world. We all believe in a free independent press as an essential component of a healthy democracy. But as Rusbridger ably demonstrates, this is easier said than done. It is impossible to always get it right. Journalism is trending toward a dialogue with its readers. This can produce fascinating threads of reflection and information. But sadly it can also tap into the darker side of the human experience, rich in hatred and prejudice. Rusbridger is to be commended for his honest and personal account of the challenges that he and his team faced.
Profile Image for Dan J. Brown.
66 reviews
May 11, 2021
Prose/Readability: 5
Commitment to Objective/Unbiased Truth: 4
Interesting Content: 5
Perspective Shift: 5

Best book I’ve read in over a year.
Monumental and very important.
Profile Image for Leif.
1,637 reviews87 followers
March 5, 2019
This is a good read if you are interested in the story told by the newspapermen - those who remain of a kind who, in all honesty, represent a blip in the longer history of capitalism and democracy, anyway. Rusbridger's account is iconic and unique in many ways: not only is the Guardian perhaps the most successful left-leaning news institution in the contemporary Anglophone world, but his stewardship bridged the transformation where papers became pages and stories became facts, evidence, and lies, none of which are sometimes easy for some to parse. In between is the rise of the Internet, of course, and also the hydra-heads of social media and new technological companies who monopolize not only knowledge, like priests, nor information, like the government, but data too. Rusbridger narrates it all, from the incessant worries and discussions about fiscal concerns (to paywall? not to paywall?) to the shocking new stories that emerge in a world where data is king (think Assange, or Snowden), to the basics of thinking about how to take a paper document and make it live on internet pages.

I found Rusbridger a congenial if oddly unforthcoming narrator. While he has much to say, he doesn't tread into self-critique or question his decisions too frequently. Nor does he delve deeply into theory or other historical perspectives than that close to his or his interlocutors - this is autobiography that turns the institution into the person of interest. There is little of Rusbridger's own life in these pages, but many of his thoughts - and much in relation to the upper crust of British society, the fat bird whose feathers Rusbridger delights in thinking about ruffling. And, you know what? From the evidence, Rusbridger is himself generous and careful - a good editor, albeit judged solely from his own admissions.

The major benefit of something like this is to demonstrate how incredibly messy and wide-ranging the contemporary work of journalism is, even and especially way at the top. (And you can bet that it only gets messier at the working level.) The lines between influence, evidence, belief and public interest are only ever drawn in the sands of time. Facile claims about what journalists ought to do must understand fully the counterveiling influence of near-inevitable pragmatisms and working considerations, never mind the high-level politics.

In summary, there's lots to learn here if one has patience.
Profile Image for James.
611 reviews13 followers
March 17, 2021
I found this interesting, but it was a touch esoteric, chronicling Alan Rusbridger's time as editor of The Guardian. There were sections on the media in general, more so earlier in the book, but mostly it is a biography of the newspaper from 1995 to 2018.

This is not quite as dry as it sounds, despite a lot of figures. If you want to know the Guardian's income at any point between these dates, it was probably mentioned at some point, and it is not entirely neutral, with its investigative journalism highlighted and praised, and its clickbait Liberal parody columnists aren't mentioned as part of its digital business model. However, it is good at highlighting the editorial decisions that need to be made, and the balance between long term trust and short term income. In fairness, the Guardian does have good investigative journalists and is treated more seriously than its circulation would indicate. The average income of its reader was surprisingy low to me too, unless this was skewed by retired readers and students. This meant that it had to compete for advertising on circulation figures, and not a few wealthy readers who are willing to spend money.

In the first part of the book the paper is compared to its rivals, chiefly The Independent, and I found the clash of styles intriguing. There is a later chapter on The Telegraph and its lack of integrity which is revealing, but there are fewer comparisons with rivals after 2008 and there is no mention of the i newspaper or the Indy really struggling before going web-only. As the web dominates print, the discussion became more insular, although it was still full of insights. The Guardian was committed to linking to other sites and encouraging comments from readers rather than being a proverbial ivory tower, which was admirable. What Rusbridger meant by 'open, but not necessarily free' is still not clear to me, but he did cover the societal impact of paywalls and the consequence of information not being free to all.

The 'openness' debate was not the only time the book strayed into pretentiousness, but it was still very informative, and with plenty of philosophical thought. I am into the meta-elements of media so this appealed to me, and no amount of minor cliffhangers to end each chapter would convince anyone this was a non-fiction thriller. But it was well put together, and benefited from the insights only an editor has the authority to assert.
Profile Image for John.
33 reviews2 followers
November 9, 2019
I enjoyed this book. I hope that more people will read it, as it raises important issues that affect us all.

Alan Rusbridger should go down in history as one of the great newspaper editors. He took the Guardian through a period of unprecedented and unexpected changed and passed it on to his successor in remarkably good shape.

He fought several vital battles that could have destroyed his career and the paper, as well as weakening press freedom, and he won them. Jonathan Aitken MP tried to destroy the paper and failed. The Guardian exposed the scandal of phone hacking at News International against the combined hostility of the press, government and police - and it won, against the odds, with the support of the New York Times. And Rusbridger played a crucial role in Wikileaks and in challenging the right of the security services to decide what information should and should not be made public.

Rusbridger is generous in his praise of those who helped him. He is also respectful towards some of those who tried to take down him and the paper. It’s also clear that he feels that the behaviour of the majority of the UK press over many years has set back the cause of press freedom, damaged the reputation of the media and contributed to the rise of fake news.

I was particularly interested in how he and his colleagues, navigated the paper through the challenges presented by the rise of the web, then the transition to Web 2.0 and finally, the rise of social media. I was impressed by the way he worked hard to find out what lay ahead at critical stages by talking to the people behind these revolutions in Silicon Valley. As a long-time reader of the paper, I think he and his team were mostly successful. The paper’s website informs, educates, entertains and campaign - and it continues to thrive in the face of competition from social media. There is no paywall, so the paper has more influence than in the past. That’s not a bad result for a company with significantly less financial backing than its rivals.

Despite his achievements, Alan Rusbridger comes over as a modest and generous person - in contrast to some other national newspaper editors. His book is relevant, fascinating and easy to read. I recommend it to anyone interested in the media and its role in our public life.
1,971 reviews47 followers
April 18, 2021
This is a chronological account of Rusbridger's tenure as Guardian editor, and there are a few threads of this book:

1. Commercial decisions - this talks about the structure of the news organisation; his switch to digital in the interests of running it; the constant pressure of profit, the number of readers, and the advertisers.

This review goes into detail about the business side of things.

2. Philosophical questions - this is about the nature of journalism. You could probably sub-divide it into the big investigative exposes that he's been involved in, such as the Aitken defamation suit, and Snowden and the recurring questions of what journalism should be.

These philosophical questions are also affected by commercial questions: Rusbridger brings up investigative reporting, and points out that these reports wouldn't have brought in enough money to justify the money spent on building up the report. But he believes that there's value in doing in.

The business side also intrudes into this: there's talk about adverse reporting against large companies being pulled because those companies also pull their advertising budget in that newspaper.

He's also very complimentary of New York Times, but there's a bit about interacting with the other editors. He talks about how the Barclays brothers wanted to buy out a hotel; the competing interest on the other side was funded by someone linked to Qatar. For months after that, the Barclays-owned newspapers launched an attack on Qatar.

That's concerning. We see that with Murdoch as well; Guardian is asked to launch in Australia because of the desire for a counter-narrative to Australian news.

Ultimately, this is an interesting book for its questions about what the news should be, and the looming question of how to fund it without the news being subject to special interests. As I finished this book, we also saw complaints about BBC having too much coverage of Prince Philip's death - although I now can't find the article that links this decision to BBC having to justify its funding.
June 7, 2020
For some reason, I found it difficult to read through the first fifteen chapters of the book which was surprising because from the ‘Phone Hacking’ chapter onwards, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
If anyone can’t be bothered to struggle through the first half of the book, here’s two of most important quotes you should take away:

1. To be in the game, you need to be on the platforms. Yet being on the platforms means less money, less control, less scale.
2. Gafaters stole their content; built an audience around it; sold that audience to advertisers; gave almost nothing in return; took virtually no responsibility for the content they hosted; got a free pass on the regulations that burdened traditional media; all but not least – they pay virtually no tax.

Following on from the 2nd quote mentioned above, perhaps the most important issue discussed in this book is the overarching influence ‘Big Tech’ has not only on the traditional media industry but more importantly, on our society as a whole.

As Rusbridger mentioned - ‘Societies which do not have a flow of agreed factual information are not good societies.’

The Cambridge Analytica scandal finally revealed to the world that Facebook can not only be used as a ‘totalitarian Panopticon’, it is also a ‘psychological control vector’. (had to ask Google what these two phrases mean…) Its shockwaves wiped off £60 billion (more in some estimates) on Facebook’s market cap and even the ‘shruggers’ of Snowden’s mind-boggling revelations on NSA’s capabilities ‘sat up straight and howled foul’.

But who actually cares about a tech company's market cap or how companies use our data? Well, we all have to take a moment to thank those who contribute generously to our hyper polarised political arena and scapegoating culture - from different billionaires who buy up entire news corporations with their pocket change, to MoneyMan Robert Mercer's multi-million cheque for AggregateIQ's brilliant work on Vote Leave's Brexit campaign and for Cambridge Analytica's gift to the Donald, aka Adolf Twitler.

I digress... all in all, I think this is a great book and an important one that everyone should read. If you really can't be arsed, at least go check out a fantastic BBC series called ‘Press’ on Netflix that I stumbled across shortly after I finished reading this. It almost seems as if Rusbridger wrote the script while he was writing this book. Personally, I enjoyed Channel 4's drama 'The Uncivil War: Brexit' even though the Guardian thought it was horrendous. Who cares about the ratings if you enjoy a bit of Cumberbatch ? (or shall I say, an inside look through the crap eyesight of Durham Dominic) -> next book on my list therefore has to be Cumming's recommendation - Philip Tetlock's Super-forecasting :)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Peter Stuart.
286 reviews2 followers
April 1, 2020
If you care about freedom of thought or any individual or collective degree of trust in our society, this is a very important book that you should read.

For circa ~170yrs the printed newspaper was one of, if not the, key way people consumed their news, formed their opinions and sought to understand more of their immediate and wider world . So how did, has, this changed with the coming of the digital age and how, if they have, have newspapers evolved for changed world we now all live in ?

As the editor of The Guardian for 20yrs from 1995, the author takes us through his, and his newspapers, evolution. Yet more importantly he takes us through the evolution of journalism and indeed the entire summarized aspects of the 4th estate over that period, the critical importance of those changes and the still ongoing changes for us all.

This is a very important book. It covers in large part the rapid and uncharted evolution of journalism over the last ~25 yers and indeed the acceleration of the evolution as you and I sit here now. Ask yourself this. Who do you respect, listen to or even go so far as to trust with your news in our age of “false news”, mass media, social media and diverse information sources ?

I found myself with this very question. Having read the autobiography of his counter part at the Murdoch press (previously reviewed), it is a personal answer that I have arrived at, yet it is one that I will continue to review and critically question.

I also find myself more willing than ever to support those sources that I believe do not carry consistent agendas and do actually attempt, as best can be, to deliver the true critical fundamentals of professional journalism within both a democracy, across the world and within the digital world in which we all live.

A work all should consider and act upon.
Profile Image for Ginni.
327 reviews33 followers
February 1, 2019
It was a bit sobering reading this right after hearing the announcements of sweeping layoffs in many major news outlets.

Breaking News is equal parts information and memoir. At times it's rather dense. But it's important. Certainly a must-read for aspiring journalists, but arguably also for anyone who has never stopped to question how they are informed about the world.

Having spent almost 20 years as editor-in-chief of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger has a lot of first-hand experience with the rapidly changing field of journalism. You're probably familiar with the Guardian, by now one of the most-read English news outlets in the world. If you're not, you definitely will be by the end of this book. Rusbridger lovvvvves this newspaper.

To me, the most important thing this book does is pose questions. How do you break important stories in a country where freedom of the press is not legally protected and a lawsuit could bankrupt you? How do you keep the lights on when the public now expects to get their news for free? Should you give the public the news they want to read, or the news they need to read? Who gets to decide what information is too sensitive or dangerous to be released? Should journalists share their opinions? What is a journalist's responsibility? What is journalism? We see Rusbridger wrestle with the complicated ethics of a field that's rapidly being redefined and threatened. It may not look anything like it did a hundred years ago, but one thing is certain: the news is more important now than ever before.

(I received this book for free through a Goodreads giveaway.)
Profile Image for Bradley Morgan.
Author 1 book10 followers
February 4, 2019
Joining the staff of The Guardian during the late 1970s, Rusbridger became the editor in 1995 before stepping down in 2015 after elevating The Guardian from being the ninth-largest newspaper in the UK to one of the leading global journalistic enterprises. Founded in 1821 by a trust, The Guardian adhered to principles that safeguarded journalistic integrity during times when the newspaper industry was becoming increasingly obsolete and unprofitable. Rusbridger’s book is more than just a document about his tenure at The Guardian and the various successes, disappointments, and challenges he faced while there. Relying on his expertise and knowledge in the field, his book is also a thoughtful analysis on how the institution of the press, a once vertical form of one-way communication, became increasingly flattened with the democratization of news as print became less profitable. As newspapers struggled to adjust business models to become revenue generating as the industry transitioned from print to digital to mobile, so were the quality and integrity of journalism impacted. With the obsolescence of print media, the horizontal effects of digital and mobile news intensified the delegitimization of the press with the increasing prevalence of fake news, conspiracy theories, and bad reporting. Rusbridger’s book is an insightful analysis on the importance of the news industry, the changes in how society perceives journalists, and a call to action to safeguard the principles of an uncompromised press.
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