March 18, 2015

The fight to be the next editor of The Guardian

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"You're hired?"

“You’re hired?”

The new editor of the Guardian newspaper will be announced on Friday, when a new individual will be placed at the helm of Britain’s leading liberal newspaper. Alan Rusbridger, the newspaper’s current editor-in-chief announced last December that he would be retiring from the position he has held for over twenty years.

An article in the Financial Times gives us some insight into the behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings at the newspaper as a new editor is decided on. The two journalists left in the running are the Guardian’s US editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, and Ian Katz, editor of the BBC’s Newsnight television programme.

The shortlist has been somewhat surprising considering that:

The favourite for the role had been Janine Gibson, who was prominent in the Guardian’s Pulitzer prize-winning coverage of the US security agency whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations. However, Ms Gibson, who was reported last year to have considered moving to the New York Times, did not make the shortlist.

The reason for this has to do with the Guardian’s primary selection process, one of the most transparent in the industry, and indeed in any industry. Earlier this month, all Guardian journalists applying for the job took part in a hustings in front of Guardian journalists. The Guardian’s 800-strong staff then voted for their choice of candidate. The Financial Times reports:

More than 800 employees voted this month in a ballot organised by the National Union of Journalists. Ms Viner won overwhelmingly — with 53 per cent of votes cast, while Ms Gibson finished third with 21 per cent.

But the appearance of Katz in the shortlist has also been a surprise. Unable to take part in the hustings as a current employee of another organisation, his name has only now been revealed to be in the running, by the Financial Times.

Katz was deputy editor at the paper until 2013 and is credited for the growth of G2, the Guardian’s daily newspaper supplement and for his part in the coverage of WikiLeaks. But after leaving the paper, Katz landed in hot water for an accidental tweet that was meant to be a private message. As well as calling a labour MP “boring snoring” he derided print journalism, writing: “telly MUCH netter [sic] than snooooozepapers innit”.

Viner is currently editor-in-chief at the fast-growing Guardian US, and before that launched Guardian Australia, as well as having moved up and throughout all of the Guardian’s major sections and supplements. Viner’s public Candidate’s Statement called for the paper to show “humility about an unknown future”, placing emphasis on the need to “Report, report, report”, grow the youth readership and “be instinctively digital”.

The fight to edit the best snooooozepaper in the land ends on Friday.

Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.

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