Former Guardian editor underscores need for solidarity among media outletstext_fields
New Delhi: During the M20 Media Freedom Summit held online in Delhi on September 6, 2023, prominent media figures and journalists from around the world gathered to discuss the critical importance of solidarity in sustaining journalism amid financial distress.
The event featured remarks by Alan Rusbridger, Former Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian and Chair of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford, UK.
In his address to the summit, Rusbridger acknowledged the well-known financial challenges faced by media organizations, which have become something of an open secret in the industry. He highlighted how this vulnerability can make media outlets susceptible to external pressures and underscored the need for two distinct forms of solidarity.
Rusbridger recounted a pivotal moment in The Guardian's history when they were collaborating with The New York Times on the Snowden investigation in 2013. At that time, there was a genuine risk of government interference and legal action. Surprisingly, there was a lack of solidarity within the British press, which Rusbridger attributed to The Guardian's previous exposure to phone hacking by other newspapers.
However, when The Guardian reached out to editors worldwide for statements of support, they received an overwhelming response. Approximately 30 to 40 editors from various global publications expressed their solidarity. This outpouring of support sent a strong message to the British government and police that attempting to halt The Guardian's reporting would have international repercussions.
Rusbridger stressed that this kind of solidarity among media organizations is essential to protect press freedom and ensure that journalism continues to thrive in an increasingly challenging landscape.
Rusbridger also emphasized the intangible yet crucial form of solidarity with readers. He pointed to examples from The New York Times and The Guardian, where readers willingly supported journalism they found valuable and important.
The New York Times, despite its own financial troubles over the years, received significant support from readers who recognized the value of its journalism. Similarly, The Guardian's experiment with reader contributions initiated about 13 years ago, has proven highly successful. Millions of people from around the world now contribute to The Guardian, believing that its journalism is worth supporting.
Rusbridger believes that investing in impactful stories, like the Snowden revelations, phone hacking scandals, WikiLeaks, torture and rendition, tax avoidance, and undercover policing, played a pivotal role in convincing readers to support these media organizations.
He urged media professionals to recognize the scepticism surrounding journalism today but stressed that maintaining a strong relationship with readers is critical. According to Rusbridger, if readers perceive that a media outlet is doing something important and meaningful, they will offer their support. This, in turn, can act as a shield against external threats and make those in authority think twice before taking action.