Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Guardian's Alan Rusbridger on breaking down the wall between journalists and readers

Guardian News and Media has published the latest version of its Living Our Values sustainability report.
The report discusses the future of GNM's journalism and how it covers climate change and social justice. GNM has also launched a new interactive Living Our Values website.
In the report GNM editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger talks about breaking down the wall between journalists and readers.
"What we are doing is taking down those bricks, lowering the barrier and positively encouraging the relationship between the two. This gets over the tired argument that this is an either/or battle between old media and bloggers.
"The mutualisation of news is a very powerful idea that particularly works for the Guardian, as our relationship with our readers is very strong. We can use the community of our readers in ways we would not have been able to in the past."
Rusbridger gives the example of Comment is Free, which now has nearly 1,000 think pieces a month from a broad range of writers and commentators. Page traffic in May 2009 rose to 9.3m, compared with 7.6m the year before, the report says.
Rusbridger adds: "It cannot be true that there are only a handful of people worth listening to in the world. Comment is Free is infinitely richer and more diverse and more plural. These bloggers who write for us could have done it very happily on their own, but what we offer them is the influence and the clout and an incredibly interesting audience to commune with."
He argues: "We need to continue breaking down the perceptions of a remote journalist who is a preacher, living distantly, and newspapers as being in bed with power and on the side of power, rather than the reader.
"On our side it means becoming even more transparent and accountable about our sources as well as increased humility. We need to get writers into the mindset where we tell less and listen more, not just in send mode but receive mode, where publishing an article is the beginning of a process and not the end of it."
Rusbridger believes applications such as Twitter make it increasingly possible for individual journalists to publish outside the constraints of GNM's newspapers and website and develop direct relationships with communities of readers. He gives the example of Guardian journalist Jemima Kiss, who had more than 12,000 followers on Twitter in June 2009 and uses them to get help in researching stories.
"It's a journalist's dream," says Rusbridger, "because there are all these people out there who can bombard her with all the information she needs. It represents a blurring of the lines between journalism and readers. She says: you help me with researching this story and I will let you know when it is ready."
The report is not without criticism. Outgoing NUJ chapel chair Helen Oldfied writes: "The pay freeze mooted for all staff threw into high relief the very large salaries relative to the rest of the company and the traditionally handsome bonuses that have been paid to members of the Guardian Media Group (GMG) board. These bonuses may have been cut back – or even forgone
completely and voluntarily in some cases– this year and will not be paid at all next year. But this is a response to extraordinary financial conditions rather than an acknowledgment that bonuses, essentially for doing your job, have no place in an organisation such as ours."

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