My life: a summary...

For most of my working life I was a journalist – mainly on the Guardian, which I edited for 20 years from 1995-2015.  I am now Principal of Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford.

After reading English at Cambridge I started in journalism, progressing from local papers to a job as a reporter on the Guardian in 1979. Over eight years I reported and wrote a daily diary column and features before leaving to become the Observer’s TV critic in succession to Clive James and Julian Barnes.

In 1987 I moved to Washington to become the US editor for the (now defunct) London Daily News. I then returned to the Guardian, launching its Weekend magazine and G2 section before becoming deputy editor; and, finally, editor.

The paper I inherited was print on paper. By the time I left in 2015 we continued to print a paper (in a different format) but had transitioned the Guardian into being a 24/7 digital news operation based in London, US and Australia.  We had overtaken the New York Times to become the largest serious English language newspaper digital operation in the world.

The journalism won multiple awards, including, in 2014, and Emmy and the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.  The economic model of news was – almost universally – challenging. By the time I left the Guardian we were heading for £100m a year in digital revenues and had built a endowment worth £1bn which was held by the Scott Trust, which owns the paper.  But – famously - the digital west coast giants have since moved aggressively to hoover up the majority of advertising money. Since 2015 the Guardian has developed the membership scheme we first originated in 2012 as an alternative to paywalls. The paper now has 1 m paying readers and is on course to break even in 2019.

The last five years of editing saw the Guardian breaking many stories that were followed up globally, including the Wikileaks diplomatic cables revelations;  the phone-hacking story which saw News International journalists jailed; disclosures about illegal torture and rendition; tax avoidance; toxic-dumping by Trafigura;  and, in 2013, the Edward Snowden disclosures about mass surveillance.

Three of these stories – Wikileaks, phone hacking and Snowden – later become films made, or currently in the pipeline, by Stephen Spielberg, George Clooney and Oliver Stone.

In 2014 I published a memoir of journalism and music, Play it Again, describing how a passion for amateur music-making (piano and clarinet) helped achieve a semi-sane work/life balance in the most stressful of times. My new book, Breaking News - about what journalism was; where it is going; and what it may become - was published by Canongate in September 2018 in London; and by FSG in December in New York.

I have also written a screen play, Fields of Gold (BBC1) with Ronan Bennett; a screenplay for Working Title for a full length animation feature; and a play about Beethoven. I have written regularly for the New York Review of Books, the Observer and the New Statesman.

I am Chair of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and sit on the Board of the Royal National Theatre and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.  I was previously chair of the Photographers’ Gallery and the National Youth Orchestra. I chair the Oxford Chamber Music Festival. 

I talk and lecture about journalism; the media climate change; and music (please contact KBR@leighbureau.com) and have honorary degrees, professorships and/or awards from, among others, Queen Mary’s College, London; the Open University; The University of Oslo; Roehampton University; CUNY New York; Harvard; Columbia University, NY; Kingston University; Lincoln University, Coventry University and Cardiff University.

I am married to the journalist and think-tanker, Lindsay Mackie. We currently divide our lives between Oxford and London. We have two children and two dogs, who have their own Instagram account (@lmhdogs).  I am @arusbridger on Twitter and Instagram; and can be contacted via email at alanrusbridger[at]mac.com