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The decline and fall of the Guardian

July 12, 2016

newspaper profitsAs our regular readers will note, we frequently flog the theme of how our lives have been affected by the creeping ooze of technology, and just how important it is to cling to human values in the face of a world that is increasingly defined by apps, algorithms and the insistent demands of various database criteria.  The unique needs and contributions of human beings as they make their way through the world are rapidly giving way to the sometimes ridiculously inconvenient requirements of the electronic devices they use, making us all a little less unique and a little less human day by day.

The “analog” life has become a thing of the past, and it is nearly impossible for many people to find their way without GPS, or to accomplish simple tasks without a laptop, Google, and unlimited bandwith, or to communicate on a basic level without a “smart” phone cradled in their palms; greasy plastic screens reflecting the octopus-like twirl of continually twitching thumbs.  Formerly, we thumbed through books, magazines or newspapers to absorb the lessons of history, or to indulge in an entertaining short story, or just to get the news.  But the black-smudged thumb that identified an intelligent and informed reader of the news is now nowhere to be seen; instead we are seeing long lines of phone addicts queuing up at the clinic seeking treatment for De Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

We have been thumbing through the Guardian, in print and on line, for the past fifteen years, and have greatly appreciated what may have been an objective and alternative view of world events and life in these United States.  We discovered clear-thinking columnists including Gary Younge and Glen Greenwald, whose important work came to the fore during the publication of the Edward Snowden articles.  We grew to appreciate the courageous and principled leadership of Alan Rusbridger, who boldly defied the directives of the US and UK government intelligence machine.

But we have watched with growing dismay the way the Guardian has chosen to adapt to the immediate present.  After the buzz of the Snowden articles subsided, something vaguely sinister happened to the character of the Guardian.  The brilliant columnists we liked so well were marginalized and Rusbridger was simply put out to pasture, replaced by a new managing editor with firm US connections.  Balanced and factual news reporting took a backseat to fluff pieces detailing the lives of insipid pop personalities and advertisements for book or product releases disguised as news items.  What happened to our favorite source of news?

The Guardian capitalized on its US connections to present itself as an alternative source of US news, appearing to cram a weasel’s share of purloined eggs into their smallish basket.  With its questionable approach to reporting on the last presidential primary race, the Guardian cemented its fate.  Choosing to pursue an ill-conceived approach based upon an unworkable model, old (and at times elitist) attitudes toward the presentation of the news emerged, combined with a very awkward attempt to maintain an up-to-date online presence.

A pervasive and sustained editorial bias stretched the bounds of belief as the Guardian did everything in their power to cast Hillary Clinton as the anointed favorite and depict all others either as clowns or ranting extremists.  To be fair, in many cases they were right, and the Republican candidates were a very easy mark.  But the way the Guardian’s editorial bias marginalized reporting on the campaign of Bernie Sanders is simply indefensible and inexcusable.  In lockstep with many prominent US media outlets, the Guardian’s reporting on the primary alienated an unprecedented number of readers and untold numbers of commenters pointed out their observations regarding the skewed reporting, only to have their comments removed.  The Guardian finally gave in and allowed perhaps four objective opinion pieces by Trevor Timm to filter into the lower quadrant of their web site, but too little too late.

Having alienated so very many readers by presuming she could shape the news in the manner of William Randolph Hearst, the current editor of the Guardian is now complaining that their readership is dwindling, and that paid subscriptions have fallen off.  Might we suggest a glance in the mirror will reveal the source of the problem?  We are not exactly sure what has become of the Guardian of old, but it is simply no longer a trusted source of news.  We bid farewell to a once-respected institution.

2 Comments
  1. “In the hypercompetitive and partisan world of British journalism, Mr. Rusbridger was sometimes a lonely figure, often more admired in the United States than among his rivals at home.” (from the above linked article) This seems to be the unkind fate of truly stellar personalities, especially when daring to challenge the establishment and interfering with influential people’s goals. To those who are satisfied now: As the future chairman of the Reuters Institue for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, Alan Rusbridger will certainly start stirring up the business from the other side, so beware. Unfortunately, this won’t bring back his legacy on this side.

    • Thanks for your comments, J. Yes, Alan Rusbridger is as much a hero as Edward Snowden in my estimation. But upon reflection, it seems that he was merely carrying out his job in a principled manner, which is what we should all be doing. It makes sense that Rusbridger is also a devoted pianist, proving the theory that musical training contributes to forming a principled character.

      RA

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