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Making news free to the world…



BBC sounds music Radio podcasts from BBC Radio 4 hello, have you missed me? Yeah? I thought not locked out.

We've been interviewing some of the leading Lights of media and our mix of Regular shows last week and you spoke to Christine amanpour of CNN in April I don't usually Minton beddoes the editor of The Economist and Ben Flower of Channel 5 all of those episodes of course are available if you subscribe to the show on BBC sounds today is the first editor of The Guardian editorial staff have been energized of late by their decisive role in the story about Dominic Cummings even as commercial staff threat about the devastation wrought on the company's bottom line covid-19 the job 5 years ago this month what a time to be celebrating your 50th birthday as editor welcome to the media show I think it makes sense to start with.

News which is a Porsche Dominic Cummings was it a case of a good old-fashioned calling that leads the story in Italy what it was.

Yes, but it was brilliantly pursued by Aaron and how do that so that Colin came from a source who heard Mr Cummings playing Abba Dancing Queen and a driver is that right? Yes, he was spotted in Durham with many weeks ago and we've been trying to get the story of the line ever since then we only had succeeded as you know week last Friday and what do you do? Just did you do on the saw some interesting mechanics and Hugo Incorporated story of the scale and you listen very hard at what they're saying to you after evidence us a story and you put it all together and we got a very very assiduous serious reporter.

That's a lot of care with all the sources for this story to make sure that it was it was copper Bottoms the story to a music piece on the

Say by Matt Weaver and an Archie bland who is your nationality is just a senior reporter are the two as I understand it was Shepherd in the story throughout the story to number 10.

What do they say to you? I think the whole story of how we dealt with a number 10 dealt with those in this is incredibly interesting so he took it right at the Beginning on April 5th.

We ask them for their review and they refuse to provide sponsor.

We went back 5 days later with more further details and they again refused to provide a response then they you know it's not call his wife wrote an article in The Spectator and then read it out on the Today programme and then on the day we published our exclusive they still won't give us a response.

They were giving an off-the-record briefing is rubbish in the store too.

It's not from the Guardian and the morphine news from the Guardian that sort of thing and then they still wouldn't tell us what was fake news about it.

I'm going on the Saturday that another statement saying that the universe is series of false allegations when campaigning newspapers that was the first on the record response.

We've got in five or six weeks and it's still fail to provide any information on what main actresses were and it was indeed.

I mean on the Monday press conference that in the Rose Garden that Mr Cummings gave he confirmed that almost everything in our store is most significantly obviously the trips to Durham and to Barnard Castle were in fact absolutely true that was incredibly difficult story to deal with number 10 over and and quite depressing that way out.

So I just be really clear when you went there on April 5th.

They didn't engaged does that mean that they came back with a response saying we're too busy as other things going on or do they back saying this is completely absent at the time? What was there? Was there? Just refused to provide a response of your relations with number 10 already shower cos I'm even though you know.

You've been in a situation myself.

You usually get some sort of a response that is quite an unusual It's Not Unusual then come back and not engaged at all.

Is it I think with this administration.

It's not actually I mean the role of the press machine in number 10 and Sullivan turned inside out the pressure supposed to be a vehicle through which journalist can ask questions with the Expectations are getting answers if there is evidence based in fact.

They should expect to get answers at the moment.

It feels like the rest of us like a filter through which journalist can ask questions.

We give away what we know and what we think we know by time for them to get their ducks in a row prep start rubbish in the story of rubbish in the journalist and then before no commenting and it makes you wonder why we bother putting things to them at all.

I want to come back to mechanics of how you work with the Daily Mirror just a second but while we're on this issue of number 10 Archie bland who is news editing the story so far as I can tell put out a tweet saying that one of the Tactics he saw from number 10 is a put out a

Had a blizzard of new details at was not engaging with the original details of the story.

Do you think that was exciting distraction absolutely absolutely because the two big facts of the story the trip to Durham the trip to Barnard Castle the two facts that caused an absolute outpouring of Fury across the country because they were so outrageous.

That's an outrageous breaking a public trust of the social contracts true and I think you know if you use these Tactics as they're using they can then sort of stay well this tiny detail was wrong this time you did I was wrong blows up as if to undermine the the huge truth of the story to be told me the truth, OK did.

How did the collaboration of the Daily Mirror come out well, we had a bit of a story and they had a bit of a story and the two of us together made a whole story and it and it soon became clear that we were fishing in similar waters and it was suggested that we.

Then I have to say it was incredibly positive collaboration and you know really really positive thing to do but that he would say you know arrivals and it's surprising that you would work with each other as I understand.

It's been too long to be around the story will be happy and opportunity leave my daughter is that you had a source who had her is it coming listening to others Dancing Queen selection he made it was on the radio but in his driveway and as a separate sauce separate individual who had possibly seen in walking through the woods at near his parents house and these two separate individuals go to separate titles.

So you had the other source the mirror and the Bluebells and the sources happen to know each other and we're talking to each other is that the collaboration came about a bit more complicated than that but I think it comes down to whether you say, what's the most important thing? Is it in the public interest to get the story out there or should ever.

Find with each other and I would say always the story is more important.

That's why I'm in journalism.

It's not had a beat the opposition.

It's to really tell important stories so good how to do just give us a sense of mechanics.

This is a big story was it a case of the reporters first spoke to each other and say let us create this and take it to our editors.

Did you call Alison Phillips at the moon have a conversation with the saying let's work together to maximize impact reporters who got together and until we know reported in the mirror Pippa Crerar very well, which used to work at the Guardians so it was it was a lot of sense.

Did you decide to hold anything back when you first published when they were already really means so did you take that we were betrayed as the use of editorial geniuses for holding part 2 back to the crunch moment and all of this.

Take me to the stories when they were so when you first published on the Friday night is going up to the Durham the details later about Barnard Castle whenever they came to you afterwards it just happens that in the intervening period when there's not responding the way they did that that making the further later revelations which you didn't necessarily have on a Friday night it increase the impact because actually you know there was more to come in the story.

So you got lucky that sits and Barnard Castle wasn't ready to go on the Friday night that you had a sense out right has any of those involved you shouldn't say give too much information away quite a big thing to do to trust a news organisation with your story.

What should the pressure?

You come under from number 10.

There's no engagement festival.

Do they try and contact you please let us a look you know this is this is a thing back to my days newspapers you lots of people from government PR operation get in touch with important.

So that user feedback this isn't one that you should be like to be chasing.

What's the pressure? Did you come under that it was more of a kind of how would you characterize your relationship with US government? It's distant is that a problem? I think we will do all we can to try and get sources within the guy but I think this is a particular the cabinet in particular.

Is is very much chosen for their loyalty to the Johnson Commons project and so it's cracked harder than with other governments in the past but are you going to try and build Adventures of many things in the past? I found that you know politicians always want to talk to you.

I think this.

Government is is a bit different.

I don't think that's about the Guardian idea.

I think it's got quite a lot of contempt for the media generally becomes own views about the journey from infected the whole of government that most people who work in the pen then just give me a shout if you're thinking is that how you make the most of the momentum that you've got and I don't mean it as a punch but the momentum you've got from this story.

Do you now have intend to cast The Guardian as something of a resistance destination the publication as you say that is the destination for anti-government sentiment.

I just say that you are holding the government to account the people who were enraged by Dominic Cummings story where a huge range of people from all across the political spectrum observed that 81% of the population were curious about it and we know that Tory MPs

Ian and dated from Tory voters, so it's we follow the story is not an agenda.

It's about a story interesting you mention that there is a range of people felt very strongly that we do live as you know I've talked in the past about in exceptionally febrile times various cultural to play out on social media every second of every day and this one certainly was part of that about social Media broadband connected with this story at and specifically about a freelance photographer who worked on and off the Guardian for the garden for 22 years dog diffuse Logan outside Cummings house, it said Tom Cummings and hopefully going on Instagram that she wasn't there by The Guardian she's not on your stuff you delete the Instagram post, but do you consider what she did you know it was on behalf of the Guardian to be harassment.

I think it's completely and and we told her that ok now.

Many of your staff are young there politically active are digitally savvy do you say to them that when they tweet about this particular story or anything that they speaking for the

I think this is a really difficult issue for editors actually because when people spend a lot of time on Twitter no really just talking to other journalists.

You know most of our readers are not on Twitter and even readers who are big and social media their social Media platform of choice is generally not Twitter and so it's just talking to each other.

It's almost like a kind of you know networking space and so it I think if you're literally working for Twitter rather than working for guardian.

So I think it's promoting guardian stories.

I have no problem with that but when people get into sort of each other.

I think it's an absolute waste of time.

I do let's just come back to your business model to talk about in a minute.

If you don't mind, what's your personal assessment of Keir starmer start as Labour leader.

I think it's been cautious and careful and thoughtful and according to the opinion polls.

Stressful, but it seems to me that he's playing a long game because there's not election for such a long time.

How would you describe your own policies or polishes the Guardian is closer to that of starmer or his princess Jeremy Corbyn so I think the Guardian really interesting because and often very disappointing for lots of people on the left because we are not a labour paper in fact if we have been attached to any political parties to the the Liberal party as what as what we are as laid out or layed out by CP Scott nearly 100 years ago is that we're paper and a broad range of perspectives from the kind of soft right to the left and it's incredibly important according to our mandate really that we have a range of perspectives when that you know that people disagree with each other so we had pro Corbyn columnist and anti-corbyn columnist.

We will have prosonic honest and anti-spam economy.

Speaking with that invoice and that pluralism is the key to the Guardian we don't line up behind behind passes or individuals relying up behind ideas and policies and I'm really we keep that going so fast because you were appointed editor in June 2015 five years ago this month Jeremy Corbyn elected leader of Labour September 2015 not long after you.

So I'm just how did you try to reconcile on the one hand riding the Corbyn way, if you just as interesting national movement international residents with things like Bernie Sanders in America which party did Princes by hiring young social media social media active colonies, but also keeping happy those readers for whom.

Jeremy Corbyn was unpalatable.

How did you try manage that the columns and try and balance out the downside is of course is that in a serious with you any one point because of running any columns to a pro or anti Corbyn depending where the where they stood so it is it was it's got a temper.

Period when I started I did feel there weren't enough people who got the kind of Corbin phenomenon, which was very inspiring people at the beginning and so as you said we sort of trying to balance that out, but I think that that balance that pluralism which I think is necessary appreciated by many people outside.

It's absolutely our history our tradition and I really feel very strongly that it's at the heart of who we are ok.

Have you spoken to or seen kiss x sis you selected the conversation about it was that how is dealing with the coronavirus crisis? It was very early on and I'm just asked him what his approach is going to be and we just had a conversation about that was there a moment to the fireworks from the did.

I hope very much we can rely on the Guardian construction support no, I don't think anyone would deal with that really the Guardian

Not gonna happen anytime soon as he inquired about it.

Would you like him to know are you primarily now and impartial news source or a campaign live in touch? I'm just trying to reconcile that pluralism you're saying with what you say about.

This is the the temperature in which the two are you? Are you both? Can you be both using a Dominic Cummings term about the Guardian are campaigning to be exactly as a compliment but obviously you think about it.

Is that I'm reporting should always be absolutely and so we should always miss the facts even if we don't like them even if they undermine our worldview and so I think that can be a challenge for some people and it's incredibly important obviously with subjects.

We choose to cover might be influenced by our political perspective and then obviously the opinion which is as I said as broad as possible, but is still obviously more on the left.

And our editorial line is the only really secure positioning of what the guardian Politics are so what's your offer as a publication of the newspaper digital publication across different platforms offer to people of a conservative temperature weather in Britain or abroad? I mean your Princess Diana Ross bridge.

I know you hide columns Simon Jenkins and Matthew d'ancona with two circles and interesting pieces that you know so they understood that world.

Do you feel that maybe the price of having a clearly defined position? Would you just articulated on the left politics at the price of that is that he's only people think you're not for them possibly but at the same time.

There are not many global progressive news organisations that are free and available to anyone has got an internet connection so actually there's quite a big space for us and internationally and in Britain to be that had to get to play that role.

Play mat ro aye mean hour traffic figures are so monumental I mean in March we had 366 million round the world trade in Britain is this kind of newspapers about small print circulation, but we are absolutely gigantic news organisation in terms of audience around the world and I think they find something in the garden that they don't find anywhere else to talk about the gap in the market and my question to you is going to be whether or not there's a market in the gap.

They talk about the business.

How many new subscribers have you got from covid-19 and what's the uptick in one-off donation the number of supporters? We've had since at the start of March we have more than 200000 years supporters is the highest monthly numbers ever seen Translate

95a give money every month and the other 105000 together as one off contributions.

I mean it's really interesting.

I think people's people are very emotional relationship with the Guardian business model you just described.

I think is about sort of emotion in a way that pay well as a transaction.

I'm not anti-paywall, but I think there's something very particular about a kind of voluntary model is an interesting thing because I've been coming into the office during the crisis as an essential worker and we getting a lot of post that I haven't opened and I finally got round to opening it and there were loads of texts in there from from readers.

Who don't read the internet but wanted to send a text saying keep going keep doing what you doing.

We need you and it's a very intense emotional should we have it doesn't it's very powerful emotional but be better for you fit as reliable.

I mean 105000 give me one of the Nation's is fantastic imagine if they could give you regular one of the

Which is ironic, but actually that would be that's better for the business.

Isn't it sure I mean the different models but every month and you know I search says that we get probably as much money or there abouts from our combined contributions and subscriptions model then we would get if we had a pay wall, but the same time we have gigantic impact because as I mentioned the 366 million browsers.

We had in March so they they read 2.2 billion stories in March in 1-month.

We get so much impact so much scale from that.

They would be there wouldn't be a disgrace to in any international comparison of news organisations that said the happening at a time when coronavirus causing absolute devastation across the news industry and you said just over a month ago or so that you were going to be about 20 million down in advertising.

The next six months 5 months from now I guess but given the length of lockdown and the Domination of the news agenda by covid-19 and of course the whole issue here's the advertisers often don't want to be next to stay over 19 devices.

I don't like the brand Association can you tell us now with the estimate 20-minutes over 6-months is on the low side.

I will it be even worse still projecting that and it's not as advertising.

It's also new stamped at the Beginning when so many shops are closed people won't able to buy the paper.

Do you feel having David pencil I spoke to you about that the song piece of BBC News website about that and I'm aware of you know surprise you felt that turn around and about that involves quite a bit of pain 3 years hard work though vital because it set you up for this crisis that 3 is hard work sorted be done in about three months, isn't it?

But if we haven't if we haven't really would be in quite a lot of trouble at this point and as it is we came into it and we had two years in a row of breaking even at an operating level the first time since the late and I think that just put it in a very solid position for this crisis to come and losses has got Trust willing to tolerate as your questions to guess that's got trustees have an endowment fund but that fund is there to keep the garden going in perpetuity? That is not when I started I was told that fund in that first year with the funds got about six.

Seven years left and that's obviously not perpetuity which is one of the reasons for the urgency to do something about it and I think you know the fund is there to keep the garden going forever? It's not there to keep the Guardian going for the next few years and that's the end of it.

Why not me to model you say to me as you know what you like our stuff pairs for it.

I will give you more it is completely reason what's happened to businesses across the world.

Why can't the garden just move there and sustain its Genesis in perpetuity rule it out, but I think you're looking at the moment.

Sorry you're not looking at the right now, but it's not I think there are a lot of advantages to a model.

You know this way.

It means that anyone can read guardian journalism whatever their background will however which they are you know you can have no money as long as you got internet connection.

You can read the garden and that matters to us that matters to the Scott Trust values, so I think we really have to be persuaded that there was it was really really worthwhile for us to put a barrier between us and our readers.

Are you looking at whether the Observer your Sunday title should cease printing.

Do you think there's a profit 5-years now? We're the same stuff is about 100% sure that right.

That's right.

You do you feel bit queasy about taking government money.

And I think these are jobs that were people are not working and so it's reasonable to that's what the photo scheme is for us to keep people you know people employed so I think it's reasonable to to follow it to another titles.

Not just got paid by the government often to run advert stick clearly labelled public house really really matters particular pandemic, but the principle is lottery would say it in America with people say it's actually in fundamentally.

It is always always wrong.

No ifs or buts for journey to take government money because in some sense and compromises you I mean I think it's such a huge part of advertising for all organisations in Britain newspapers anyway and the public information campaign that has been around covid-19.

You know it's been very clearly labelled as advertised.

I'm you could never imagine it.

We came from editorial department it doesn't it said it is run by a completely different department in Commercial and so I think this is how big are practical challenge is it getting the paper out when you have a social distance Newbury is every day because we can't print the newspaper without having colleagues in the office, but I mean we can get the website from from anywhere.

Just need a laptop but the paper is something different, but it's hard community is harder.

We have you probably know and we have no confidence that the Guardian every morning anyone can come anyone from across the company and it's very important to people and we can talk about the issues of the day and that room where we have money conference which sometimes if we had an outside guest with 120 people in it now.

It's totally distance we can fit 8 people in it.

So what we've been doing instead.

We've been having.

We've been having daily conference online and it's been really really important to people you never got 600 people tuning in most days, because they really want to stay cos you know I'm an expert on a social person and do long for the return of the office in officers were built for a reason and they work have you tried to approach it as a store other than getting the odd powerful scoop little bit cautious about doing that laterally not so much but the right from the beginning.

We said that we've got to hold the government to account for the scientific establishment to account as well.

That's what we pushed for the public who was in the stage committee.

I think you need to sort of show empathy and humanity for for the victims again at the beginning I felt they would just sort of numbers.

This rolling database interestingly of everybody's who's died, but we've done a separate one on the health workers have died and we've done that in the us as well.

You know we have an American Edition and lots and lots of health workers have died in the US and I asked the Australian team if they could participate as well.

Cos we have three Editions like that and they said they do but and no health worker has died in Australia and it's slightly brought to home.

You know just how much worse for crisis.

We're in than other countries and I think you'll also need to bring together international threads and try and tell their stories why is Australia doing so much better than Britain and America what's the story with with Germany and New Zealand and so on and then I think you want to do about how coronavirus is changing how we live how it's changing who we are and what lockdown is doing to our relationship's and so on and have you tried to re-engineer The Newsroom by asking.

Position of you are somebody support support support going on to actually you know turn into a national reporter and try and come out of position that we've done that.

I think she said sports people that live coverage put them into live blogs and so on but it's really important to me that all of it is underpinned by a kind of real solid scientific you know basis, so it's going to be fact-based.

It's got to be evidence-based and supporters of become incredibly important, but even more important now and they're doing this brilliant podcast science weekly.

That's huge success as well.

You know lots of explainers lots of useful things for our readers public information that they can rely on and we had some great research the Guardian saying that people really trust us really disproportionately trust at the moment and I think it's because we really just we really being careful about what we publish.

We're not publishing any kind of

You know made up information or you know we're not trying to pretend to people but the end is imminent or there's not much of a crisis going on really trying to give it to them straight Daily Press Conference do you think it's oxygen is undermining the government's exerting more and more control over the press conferences, are they and over the briefings they sort of for a few days Hancock I think stopped allowing follow-up questions they stop the timer Vaillant one day was only 27 minutes long.

I think and you saw the vision of other reported try and ask a follow-up question and the being silenced.

It doesn't look great.

Does it and when you know when the prime minister silencers public health experts in front of the cameras.

I don't think that's great either similarly when they've done.

These rebuttal blogs that which have been done by government departments attacking news outlets have attacked us but the attacks Sunday Times EFG the Manchester Evening News the BBC trying around.

Coulson and true but in almost every instance of these so-called a bottle blogs the centre allegations in those articles have been shown to be true and so again.

It's this kind of weird relationship with them.

That's developing Robbie Gibb who was the former BBC employee then work for Theresa May at Asda and stay in number 10 said that there is a real danger that political journey you talking about the lobby which is one of her favourite subjects in this show on my favourite subject on the show the political journalists were looking at this story through the prism of political culpability and therefore asking the questions at the wrong time.

What damage did is the is the Instinct of the government to obfuscate and hide in almost every Circumstance in every time they do that then I think they're burning credibility with the public as we saw last week that lack of transparency might work for them in a brexit referendum or election but in the life and death situation of a pandemic.

It's very different and I think it's very dangerous.

And by the way the news industry is facing a crisis all at one time and I know you know spoken about in the past and did last time we spoke on the show you said that competition regulators to look at the power of social media platforms and if they are having on the news industry weather in effect.

They were too powerful to dominant and in the last in the intervening 3 years Facebook provide more and more and more and more moderators tens of thousands now people who check content online and there was an old-fashioned name for that which is a journalist and yet at the same time Mark Zuckerberg responded to the between President Trump and Twitter last week was saying it's not Facebook's role to actually fat cheque issued to take down misinformation occasionally and it can you can stop abuse but actually the internet should open and it should be free for people to make their own decisions about this kind of content and he position Facebook against Twitter I mean it's complicated.

Isn't it? Because you know the Freedom freedom of thought is in.

Go onto Silicon Valley at what I've been doing with Trump's tweets in the last few days is actually been quite positive that I saw someone saying they finally found a way to deal with them, but they sort of fat checking him, but they're saying that some are inflammatory inciting violence and so on and that seems to me quite a smart approach.

They've got brilliant engineers.

They've got at the finest Minds in engineering.

So they should be able to find ways to stop sweets going viral to stop the influence of some of the messages which is inciting violence and which is entirely incorrect and I wish they done this this earlier, but the trouble is that to do something about it undermines their whole business model which is based on cube numbers of people posting and then targeting ads very precisely at them and so I think it's it's a bit conflict within all these tech companies in the business model.

These companies in the history of our species.

Are we do currently live with the biggest asymmetry of knowledge and power that we have ever seen and there is a particular relevance here to the news in we are right now in this extraordinary situation with you and I've talked about the crisis go through publishing their lots and lots of local titles who are now dependent on the Lights of Google and Facebook subsidy, so they can continue doing what they're doing you know the words you know there are local titles up and down the country from Huddersfield to whoever to wherever which are dependent on a Californian you can find Huddersfield most employees couldn't find Huddersfield on a mat and I said googled it and then there depending on those tech giants for the money to be able to cover local issues in Britain that is clearly desirable state of affairs, but the problem is there's no obvious solution when it comes to local to end, but do you see any potential remedy?

Handout for local gyms to right now depend entirely or increasingly on tech giants for their future local Communities supporting journalist locally and if you managed to take away all the kind of extra cost and just got down to what people need which is local reporting of courts and a council meetings holding the local power to account and if you can get a collective of people collectively to pay for that whether that's through a paywall ultra-modern like ours be a model but it's very difficult when some of the advertising has gone to worry worry.

They're actually compared to when you started at your career and where the Guardian another titles at island in the BBC were dropped by the daily accusations and social media where there was a more reliable funding stream actually if you want to phone quality journalism today.

Where is a real concerned it's getting harder and harder to do that it's getting harder and harder the appetite for as you your euro numbers your tracking number show the appetite for high-quality public service journalism is huge, but it is still quite hard to see how you fun that in the future when you got this proliferation of free resources online absolutely not in a time of crisis as much in a time of crisis to the business model and how to find it but I think you know tentatively our model and the models that other news organisations have developed do seem to be you know who knows will see you at the end of the crisis ends up Katharine viner editor-in-chief of the Guardian thank you very much indeed for your time.

Thank you an even longer version of our chat available via the BBC Sounds app to search for Media show on BBC sounds or indeed wherever you get your podcast used ix20 sound engineer today.

Who is Gordon I'll be back at the same time next week.


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