Alan Rusbridger, former Editor in Chief of the Guardian and current Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, recently visited Rhodes House to speak to scholars on the topic ‘Where is Journalism Going?’.
Mr. Rusbridger stated that we are in the midst of an information transformation. In the past, he said the journalistic model was ‘vertical,’ with editors determining what information was important. Today, however, he said the model has become more ‘horizontal.’ Instead of turning to the front page of a newspaper, people access journalism through social media sites like Facebook, and consume news based on algorithms and personal preferences.
As consumers move to these new platforms the industry’s limited revenue is following. Mr. Rusbridger noted that 85% of it flows to social media sites, with little journalistic responsibility attached, and he believes that these sites should be labelled ‘media outlets’ as a result.
In the face of such fast-paced upheaval, major news organisations, such as his former paper, are scrambling to adapt. ‘It’s like trying to rebuild an aeroplane mid-flight,’ he said.
The fairest model will see news freely available to all. Reflecting on the divisive events of 2016, Mr. Rusbridger warned of the dangers of fencing quality news behind paywalls, stressing that quality news should not be inaccessible to those who cannot afford it. This is the model that the Guardian has adopted, and Mr. Rusbridger is not the only person intently watching its performance. The direction of the entire industry relies on it.
Following his talk, Rhodes Scholars Andrew Wheeler (Australia-at-Large & Lady Margaret Hall 2015) and Jane Darby Menton (Florida & St. Antony’s 2015) engaged Mr. Rusbridger in a moderated Q&A session, probing further on his thoughts about the future of journalism and the ethical decisions journalists face in the current media landscape.
Andrew Wheeler (Australia-at-Large & Lady Margaret Hall 2015) is currently studying a Master of Public Policy after completing the MSc in Economics for Development last year and Jane Darby Menton (Florida & St Antony's 2015) is a journalist currently reading an MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies.