The Current

Journalism must be remade to rebuild public trust, says veteran editor of The Guardian

Anna Maria Tremonti speaks to Alan Rusbridger, the former editor of the Guardian whose 20-year tenure involved explosive investigations and ushering the newspaper in the digital age.

There is a powerful relationship between news and democracy, says Alan Rusbridger

Alan Rusbridger's new book, Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now, explores the challenges facing the industry today. (Raincoast Books)

Read Story Transcript

In the age of Brexit and populist leaders, veteran editor Alan Rusbridger wants journalists to ask themselves "to what extent did we help create these people?"

"If you run away from complexity and you deal in ever, ever-shorter sound bites, and very simplistic messages ... then in a way you're helping mould a world  in which people have very simplistic, populist, fear-laden messages  to win," said Rusbridger, who was editor of The Guardian newspaper for 20 years.

"There is a powerful, urgent relationship between news and democracy, and that is the great responsibility I think journalists have to face up to," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Alan Rusbridger in conversation with The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti. They discussed his career as editor of the Guardian for 20 years, and what lies ahead for the industry. (Padraig Moran/CBC)

Rusbridger edited the U.K. newspaper from 1995-2015. His tenure saw the paper conduct explosive investigations, from the release of documents related to the U.S. government's secret surveillance programs — provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — to the hacking scandal that shook Britain's media establishment.

He also led the publication into the digital age, and addresses some of the challenges the internet poses to modern journalism in his new book, Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now.

One of those challenges is that traditional media organizations now have "billions of people" to compete with for a reader's attention, he said.

"They're finding that people either don't recognize great journalism when they see it — they can't tell the difference between a good source and a bad source — or they just instinctively mistrust journalists," he said.

"Journalism has to be remade in order to address that trust problem."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal


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