Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Who Guards the Guardian?

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    Because that’s what Glenn Greenwald, who brought the story to The Guardian, demanded

    Yeah, and I still wish Rushbridger had told Greenwald "publish elsewhere and be damned then." I know letting a massive scoop walk out the door goes against every instinct in a good newspaper editor's body (and Rushbridger's one of the greats), but as you say, Russell, a big part of the impact and authority of any newspaper is taking the time to get a story right rather than right now.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Because that’s what Glenn Greenwald, who brought the story to The Guardian, demanded

    It does make some sense, when viewed in light of this line from the Auletta piece:

    Heywood had learned about the most recent revelation when Guardian reporters called British authorities for comment; he warned Rusbridger that the Guardian was in possession of stolen government documents. “We want them back,” he said. Unlike the U.S., Britain has no First Amendment to guard the press against government censorship. Rusbridger worried that the government would get a court injunction to block the Guardian from publishing not only the G.C.H.Q. story but also future national-security stories.

    Who knows if that would have been successful, but possibly better to get something out there so an injunction would serve less purpose?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Harvey,

    Off-topic, but Alan Rusbridger's book, 'Play It Again', can be recommended to all who are learning or who enjoy playing piano. He tackles one of Chopin's more difficult works (1st Ballade, Opus 23) at the same time as the Wikileaks, Arab Spring and NewsOfTheWorld issues were making headlines and consuming his days and nights.

    Westmere • Since Nov 2006 • 57 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Who knows if that would have been successful, but possibly better to get something out there so an injunction would serve less purpose?

    No, not really. If that injunction had come down anyway, and all Rushbridger had on the record was those pretty weak initial stories what "purpose" would have been served? I know this is anathema to the "publish and let someone else be damned" wing of the Assange cult, but under Rushbridger's leadership The Guardian has run stories they've had to take the time to get right, because getting them wrong in the home of libel tourism and Carter Ruck could have been fatal.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • John Elijah,

    Enjoy your work Russell

    Hawkes Bay • Since Oct 2013 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Who knows if that would have been successful, but possibly better to get something out there so an injunction would serve less purpose?

    In Britain, I don't think it would have made sense to tip off the government for just that reason. I'm more thinking of the benefits of knuckling down for two or three months and presenting a really indestructible story, with appropriate infographics. As it was that first Prism story didn't really make it clear what Prism was. And the one that followed, the NSA call database story, left out the quite important context that Sy Hersh had broken that story in (from memory) 1997, leading to an ACLU lawsuit -- but it was still going on. By comparison, the later stories that Guardian journalists have had time to work on have much more focus.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to John Elijah,

    Enjoy your work Russell

    Thank you! Nice Gravatar you have there.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Good writing, Russell. I would be happy to pay an on-line sub for the Guardian, in return for years of daily online delivery.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2537 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    They still own half of Trader Media Group, which is still I think a major cash cow, and various other media investments (the company that started Big Bruv was Guardian-owned at the time).

    I suspect that the loss of advertising from a paywall would outweigh any revenue, and the influence of the paper would slump. Paywalls only work where there is a large body of readers with a professional need for the paper and a company willing to pay (like the Wall St Journal & FT, which have both been available in various online subscription formats for over 20 years).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    (the company that started Big Bruv was Guardian-owned at the time).

    I had not realised that -- but, yes, from the Endemol UK article:

    The company originated from Peter Bazalgette's sale of his television company to the Guardian Media Group (GMG) in 1990. In 1998, Endemol acquired a 50% stake and the division was named GMG Endemol. Endemol bought the company outright from GMG in 2000.[1]

    The company was originally known as Broadcast Communications.

    Things weren't so bad until the GFC hit the other Guardian Media Group companies:

    Guardian Media Group exists to support the core purpose of its owner, Scott Trust Limited: to secure the financial and editorial independence of The Guardian in perpetuity,[6] but in the 2011/12 year the group lost £75.6 million,[7] and for the three years up to June 2012, the paper itself lost £100,000 a day - leading Intelligent Life magazine to question whether The Guardian can survive.[8]

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Barnaby Nicholls,

    I would happily pay a subscription to the Guardian - it's long frustrated me that I can't voluntarily donate short of sending an envelope with cash to the office of A Rusbridger. I think a Bandcamp model for journalism could be effective.

    I must admit to being completely flummoxed by the attention on Glenn Greenwald. I've always enjoyed his opinion pieces - strong arguments, solidly constructed, and he seems always determined to speak truth to power (which appears to be increasingly rare in the mainstream press). You can always argue that more time spent on a story would produce a tighter story, but I think the Guardian was right to publish so quickly - drawing public attention to the issue before it could be suppressed keeps them off the defensive. It's an indictment of the non-Guardian media that most stories since the leaks have focused on Greenwald and Snowden (particularly all that rubbish from Sheremetyevo Airport) - a bizarre misplacement of journalistic priorities, surely.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2013 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    No, not really. If that injunction had come down anyway, and all Rushbridger had on the record was those pretty weak initial stories what “purpose” would have been served?

    I mean, if you can get 2/3 of the story out, even imperfectly, before the injunction becomes available as a weapon, you start to reach a tipping point at which an injunction isn't effective any more. If the story is largely already out, the government isn't going to stop you publishing it.

    From reading the New Yorker article, they had the documents for quite some time before publishing anything, and the government knew that they had them and was threatening them, so it must have been a consideration.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Barnaby Nicholls,

    I'm sure the advertising department would take your money to display "We heart the Guardian" in whatever format you wish to afford.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The loss was mostly impairments, not real money. (In any large company the reported bottom line is largely a matter of accountants whimsy).

    The group made $48mln in EBITA and assets increased by $28mln, so I doubt they are going to hit the buffers imminently.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    From reading the New Yorker article, they had the documents for quite some time before publishing anything, and the government knew that they had them and was threatening them, so it must have been a consideration.

    That refers specifically to the GCHQ revelations, which followed the original NSA reports.

    Greenwald obtained the files from Snowden in May this year, unbeknownst to the governments. The first round of stories appeared in the Guardian only two or three weeks later, in the first week of June. There was no time to develop the stories, let alone read documents that would have shed light on them. It was dumb, but I guess Greenwald gave them little option.

    Bart Gellman at the Washington Post said Snowden also wanted to rush publication -- he wanted a guarantee in exchange for the Prism Powerpoint that Gellman would publish within 72 hours. Gellman, quite rightly, refused to make any such guarantee to his source.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Barnaby Nicholls,

    a bizarre misplacement of journalistic priorities, surely.

    easier to report the game than the substance

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Wallington,

    This story will get no coverage in mainstream NZ media.More is the pity. Luckily I can still afford my New Yorker subscription and was able to read the Rusbridger article which arrived by snail mail yesterday. Just how long I can afford this luxury on a benefit remains problematic. . So thanks so much to Hard News... We are sharing the article and debating the merits and ethics of the journalism. Would that we had another outlet to widen and deepen the discourse. Something like a media analysis TV show to propel the story further afield... Deep sigh!!!

    Waikawa Beach • Since Sep 2013 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Phil Wallington,

    Something like a media analysis TV show to propel the story

    Gee, who could run such a thing?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Phil Wallington,

    We are sharing the article and debating the merits and ethics of the journalism. Would that we had another outlet to widen and deepen the discourse. Something like a media analysis TV show to propel the story further afield… Deep sigh!!!

    Oh, Phil. I'm hearing you. There have been so many times I've thought our show would have added value to the conversation ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Wallington,

    Oh brother... You are not wrong.

    Waikawa Beach • Since Sep 2013 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    I mean, if you can get 2/3 of the story out, even imperfectly, before the injunction becomes available as a weapon, you start to reach a tipping point at which an injunction isn’t effective any more.

    Perhaps, but that's really easy to say when you're not the one who has to wear the consequences of rolling that dice and coming up snake eyes. It was OK for Greenwald to say "I want to make people in Washington piss blood and mess their pants, and I want it now." Rushbridger actually had some other professional and ethical factors to consider.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Rusbridger!
    Moses was found in rushes...
    Names are good to get right, if only for the sake of history.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Graham,

    But what about Greenwald's interview with Newsnight? He wiped the floor with her. And justifiably so, at face value.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Mark Graham,

    But what about Greenwald’s interview with Newsnight? He wiped the floor with her. And justifiably so, at face value.

    Yes, that's the one embedded in the post. Terrible work by Kirsty Wark.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    a tangential post perhaps – The Guardian ran this story a while ago about the NSA sharing intelligence with Israel.

    The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process “minimization”, but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.

    But the New York Times’ failure to follow up on this story, has set some editors there at loggerheads.

    Many Times readers have been writing to me for several days about a story The Guardian broke last week, describing how the United States routinely shares with Israel intelligence information that the National Security Agency gathers on American citizens….
    … After a weekend in which no mention was made in The Times of the article, I asked the managing editor, Dean Baquet, about it on Monday morning.
    He told me that The Times had chosen not to follow the story because its level of significance did not demand it
    “I didn’t think it was a significant or surprising story,” he said. “I think the more energy we put into chasing the small ones, the less time we have to break our own. Not to mention cover the turmoil in Syria.”…
    …I disagree, however, with Mr. Baquet’s conclusion on this one. I find it to be a significant development and something that Times readers should not have to chase around the Web to find out about. They should be able to read it in The Times.
    Margaret Sullivan

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

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