Helen Bennicke, Society of Editors
The Editor-in-Chief of Guardian News & Media, Katharine Viner, described her predecessor Alan Rusbridger as “a fantastic editor”, in a speech at the Society of Editors’ annual conference in Manchester today.
Opening the main day of conference sessions, Viner’s brief opening words followed on from former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre’s criticism of Rusbridger in his Society of Editors Lecture on Sunday evening.
Responding to Dacre’s references to the former Guardian editor, Viner said Rusbridger was the first editor to “embrace digital” and she praised his record in developing the public interest model of journalism, but emphasised that she wanted to talk about the Guardian “as it is today.”
In the current climate of global disruption and chaos, she said: “The UN is telling us we have 12 years to prevent catastrophic climate change.
“We have destabilised national politics and are dealing with the daily shamble that is Brexit. We have the collapse in public life with vital services outsourced and privatised.
“We have a homeless crisis particularly here in Manchester.” She said the media’s role was to interpret these times and provide clarity to inspire and make space for hope.
She spoke of the importance of getting reporters out of the office and said they should be “part of the community, not above them.”
She praised the Manchester Evening News for its response to the arena attack when it became “allied to the community.”
Viner said readers want to be “nourished, not fattened up on junk.”
The Guardian had collaborated with more than 100 different organisations, such as ITV News recently to expose rogue landlords.
Speaking about the future of the Guardian, delegates were told that the Guardian was “absolutely on track” to break even “by April.”
She said the Guardian website has 176 million unique browsers and two-thirds were from outside Britain. They have a billion page views every month.
The Guardian’s subscription model has seen one million people support it with “over 500,000 people” continuing to support it every month. She wouldn’t be drawn on how much the average subscription was, as it is “ever changing.”
“It’s really important that we seek profit and our revenues have gone up two years in a row,” she said.
The crisis was “not just about the business model,” she explained. “There is a growing distrust of the media as an institution.”
She said predicting the future was “a mug’s game.”
Asked if the Guardian would stop being printed as a newspaper, Viner replied “It is not something I can see at the moment.”
Good journalism, she said, was: “about reporting good stories that have an important reason to exist – that matter, that change things.”
When a delegate asked what she would ask Paul Dacre if she were to speak to him, she replied: “Why is he so obsessed with the Guardian? That’s all.”
Follow @socofeduk for conference updates