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Schlagwort: Journalism

Alan Rusbridger: Breaking News

Alan Rusbridger’s latest book “Breaking News” is an insight look into The Guardian as well as an insight look into  journalism itself – and it offers a glimpse inside the mind of an Editor-in-Chief in times when literally all newspaper are struggling for survival.

“Keep it short, keep it simple, write it in language you would use if you were telling your mum or dad.”

When Rusbridger left the Guardian after being its Editor-in-Chief for 20 years, he left an organisation heading towards a new age where the fear of shutting down the printing presses isn’t gone but has lost at least its fear that journalism would die with them. That is because Rusbridger isn’t only a brilliant writer but because he is guided by a decent, humble opinion about how journalism can survive in an age where fake news and mistrust in media and journalists is about to take over at least vast parts of social media. To understand Rusbridger’s thinking, you have to follow his career that started as a local journalist at the Cambridge Evening News, covering nothing but wedding reports. It was a time when journalists didn’t talk about business models (because they didn’t need to) but were aware of getting “the salient facts into the top of the story so, in haste, it could be cut from the bottom.” They lived (and local journalists still do) among the people on whom they reported. That closeness also bred respect and trust – Rusbridger considers as the most important values journalists (and their publishers) should hold dear.

To get along with the internet

Journalists and even Editors-in-Chief had to discover what that internet really was, where it lived (apparently somewhere in Silicon Valley) and how to they possibly could get along with it or “We were conquered” as  Rusbridger puts it, even if he, like most of his fellow journalists, had no idea what to make out of it, it was obvious that a  media organisation couldn’t ignore it. With the death of Lady Diana and later with 9/11, people were desperate to get information – if not by the Guardian, then from someone else. When the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the internet couldn’t cope with the huge amount of visits on various websites. But like other websites (I remember vaguely that Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s site skipped pictures and went to text only), “The Guardian – with anxious tech developers sitting up all night – didn’t go dark.”

“We broke virtually no celebrity news or gossip. We tended to ignore people’s private lives. All this appeared – for our readers – to be a positive, not a negative.”

Maybe this was one of those moments, readers found The Guardian, liked it and came back. Not only for information from and about the UK but about world affairs and made it the leading serious newspaper English-language website in the world, made it “worthy”. Then readers came back for information about the Leveson inquiry into press standards and ethics and the Snowden revelations which won The Guardian the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2014.

“Breaking News” is an inspiring and thrilling read for journalists who might find familiar thoughts and situations. For other readers it offers a brilliant read of journalism and media and how decent and serious information are made.

 

Alan Rusbridger: Breaking News – The remaking of journalism and why it matters now, Canongate, from £13.

You can find my blog entry about “Play it again” here.

Alan Rusbridger: Play it again

It doesn’t sound that much: twenty minutes a day for playing the piano. But it becomes a real struggle to sit down every morning and try to learn Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 within a year and perform it in front of an audience when you are Alan Rusbridger, then editor in chief of the Guardian at a time when news seem to be breaking for weeks on end.

The book - with yellow labels and a book mark. Photo: Petra Breunig

The book – with yellow labels and a bookmark. Photo: Petra Breunig

But he manages to squeeze practising the piano into his incredible schedule most of the time even when there are such topics as the publishing of the WikiLeaks files and the hacking scandal of “News of the World” that hit every news all over the world, and everything in between from meetings and conferences to editing a newspaper with working days that end in the early hours of the next day. So what seems to be insane is in fact very healthy for the brain and the body as a whole because while playing the piano, the brain has to concentrate on the very moment, the keyboard, the fingers, the notes so that everything else is shut out. “With other people it’s yoga, or a run or a burst in the gym. Twenty minutes on the piano have the same effect for me,” writes Alan – twenty minutes as a preparation for another stressful day.

“I gave fifteen reasons why Twitter is such an astonishing medium for journalists (…) and why senior executives in media companies who don’t ‘get it’ shouldn’t be in a job.”

So “Play it again” is of course a book about music, about learning to play a piece with a lot of specific terms that sound like a foreign language for ignorants like myself but this isn’t a reason to stop reading because  the moment you start the book you are hooked by the story that is just wonderfully written, full of inside views of Rusbridger’s work, his views and how he comes to term with them but without any arrogance others might have shown when learning that “News of the World” is about to be shut down: “It’s one of the most dramatic moments I can remember as an editor. (…) It’s a hold-the-front-page, stop-the-presses, stop-the clocks, stop-everything scoop. The history of newspapers has just been rewritten.”

“Should I ever make a book out of my endeavour with the Ballade, I resolve, I’ve at least got the title: ‘Play it again’. (…) The journalist in me also likes the fact that it’s a misquote. Bogart never said it.”

And  “Play it again” is also about Rusbridger’s struggle with the music, his doubts about his abilities to get the notes right or remember them at all and it is an inspiration for those of us who always want to go for a run, a swim or just reading a book instead of being bored by telly. They can do it. We all can.

 

Alan Rusbridger: Play it again  – An amateur against the impossible, Vintage Books, £10,99
Deutsch: Play it again – Ein Jahr zwischen Noten und Nachrichten, Secession-Verlag, 25 Euro.

 

 

 

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