Alan Rusbridger

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Alan Rusbridger
Alan Rusbridger 01.jpg
Rusbridger at the 2018 Göteborg Book Fair
Alan Charles Rusbridger

(1953-12-29) 29 December 1953 (age 68)[1]
Alma materMagdalene College, Cambridge
Notable creditFormer editor of The Guardian
TitleEditor, The Guardian
PredecessorPeter Preston
SuccessorKatharine Viner
Lindsay Mackie
(m. 1982)
RelativesBella Mackie (daughter), Greg James (son-in-law)
AwardsRight Livelihood Award

Alan Charles Rusbridger (born 29 December 1953) is a British journalist, who was formerly editor-in-chief of The Guardian and then principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

Rusbridger became editor-in-chief of The Guardian in 1995, having been a reporter and columnist earlier in his career. Rusbridger stood down from the post at the end of May 2015 and was succeeded by Katharine Viner.[3][4] In 2014, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for "building a global media organisation dedicated to responsible journalism in the public interest, undaunted by the challenges of exposing corporate and government malpractices".

From 2015 to 2021, Rusbridger was principal of Lady Margaret Hall in the University of Oxford. He was appointed chair of the university's Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in 2016.[5] In 2020, Rusbridger was announced as one of the first members of the Oversight Board created by Facebook.[6] His appointment as incoming editor of Prospect magazine was announced in July 2021.[7]

Life and career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Rusbridger was born in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia, a British protectorate (now Zambia).[2] He is the son of B. E. (née Wickham) and G. H. Rusbridger, the director of education of Northern Rhodesia. When Rusbridger was five, the family returned to Britain[2] and he was educated at Lanesborough Prep School, Guildford, where he was also a chorister at Guildford Cathedral, and Cranleigh School, a boys' Public (independent and fee-paying) School in Surrey. At Magdalene College, Cambridge, he read English Literature. During the vacations of his first two years at university, he worked for the Cambridge Evening News as an intern, and accepted a job offer from the newspaper after graduation. He stayed with the Evening News until 1979.[2]

He then joined The Guardian as a reporter, and subsequently wrote the paper's diary column and later became a feature writer. In November 1985, Rusbridger had a brief stint as a Royal reporter following the Prince and Princess of Wales around Melbourne, Australia. Fascinated by gadgets, at this stage he was already using a Tandy word processor and an early (slow) modem to file stories back to London.[8] He left in 1986 to become TV critic of The Observer, then an entirely separate newspaper, before moving to America to be the Washington editor of the short-lived London Daily News in 1987.[9]

After returning to The Guardian, he launched the "Weekend" supplement in 1988, followed by the paper's "G2" section. He became features editor in 1994.[10]

Editor of The Guardian[edit]

Appointment and early years[edit]

Rusbridger was appointed as the editor of The Guardian by the Scott Trust in late January 1995 after a decisive vote of the National Union of Journalists chapel, management and trustees in an electoral college.[11]

As editor, he defended the paper against a number of high-profile defamation suits, including those from the Police Federation and the Conservative MPs, Neil Hamilton and Jonathan Aitken. In the case involving Hamilton, and the lobbyist Ian Greer, he said: "They weren’t going to fight us in the court so they tried to do it through the TV studio." Rusbridger countered them by being available for TV interviews over three days to ensure that their version of events did not gain precedence.[10] Hamilton's case collapsed shortly before a court hearing, while Aitken was demonstrated to have perjured himself, and served a prison sentence as a result.[12]

Seen early in his editorship as a modernising new broom, he commented in June 1997 shortly after the election of Tony Blair's first New Labour government that the "old" Guardian: "opposed lots of things the Tories did which we'd now think weren't terribly bad in retrospect ... I mean, a lot of the trade union stuff doesn't seem as horrendous now as it seemed at the time."[13] From around 1997, he oversaw the launch and development of the newspaper's website,[14] initially known as Guardian Unlimited.[15]

Berliner, digital and corporate[edit]

In September 2005, The Guardian responded to the tabloid re-launches of The Times and The Independent by moving from a broadsheet format to the "Berliner" format, which is common in the rest of Europe. The print edition of the newspaper still accounted for about 75% of the company's revenue around 2012. In a profile of Rusbridger though, published in the New Statesman at the end of May 2012, former newspaper editor Peter Wilby cast doubt on whether Rusbridger's enthusiasm for online journalism, freely available without a paywall, and the large amount of money invested by the group, would ever gain a return or ensure the long-term survival of the newspaper.[14]

Until May 2016,[16] he was a member of the board of Guardian News and Media, of the main board of the Guardian Media Group and of the Scott Trust, which owns The Guardian and The Observer, of which he was executive editor. Rusbridger received £471,000 in pay and benefits in 2008–2009,[17] but then volunteered to a series of pay cuts, bringing his revenue to £395,000 in fiscal year 2012.[2]

Publication of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden material[edit]

As editor-in-chief, in August 2013 Rusbridger took the decision to destroy hard drives containing information leaked to The Guardian by Edward Snowden, rather than comply with a government demand to hand over the data. An alternative action was agreed and in the presence of the authorities the drives were destroyed. Rusbridger described performing the task as "slightly pointless": "Given that there were other copies, I saw no reason not to destroy this material ourselves."[18]

On 3 December 2013, Rusbridger gave evidence before a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing on counterterrorism at the UK Parliament with regard to the publication of information leaked by Snowden.[19]

In the film The Fifth Estate (2013), about The Guardian's former association with the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Rusbridger was portrayed by Peter Capaldi.[20]


In December 2014, Rusbridger announced he would step down as editor of The Guardian in the summer of 2015.[21] On 20 March 2015, The Guardian announced Katharine Viner as Rusbridger's successor.[4]

Rusbridger was to have succeeded Dame Liz Forgan as chair of the Scott Trust in September 2016,[22][23] but announced on 13 May 2016 that he would not take up the post.[16] The expansion in the later years of Rusbridger's editorship led to unsustainable losses and several hundred job cuts were planned. According to a report in The Times in April 2016, staff were opposed to Rusbridger returning.[24] Viner and chief executive David Pemsel were also opposed to Rusbridger becoming chair of the Scott Trust.[25]

Other activities[edit]

On 17 December 2014, a week after it was published that Rusbridger was stepping down as editor of The Guardian, it was announced that Rusbridger had been elected principal of Lady Margaret Hall, a constituent college of Oxford University.[26] He stepped down as principal in 2021.[27]

He is visiting Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, and visiting professor of history at Queen Mary, University of London. Between 2004 and 2013, he was chair of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.[28] He is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation,[29] an organisation which exists to promote international relations, and 10:10, a British climate change campaign for a 10% reduction in carbon emissions in 2010.[30]

He is an amateur pianist and performed Chopin's Ballade No. 1 for the television channel More4 in "Rusbridger vs Chopin", where he speaks about the difficulties of taking on a piece considered by many professional pianists as daunting.[31]

Rusbridger appears in the 2016 film Snowden, with a cameo role as a meeting moderator.[32]

He has written three children's books, as well as being the co-author (with Ronan Bennett) of a BBC drama, Fields of Gold.

In 2014, he received the Special Award from the European Press Prize for his leading role in the NSA revelations.[33] In 2020, he joined its panel of judges.

On 29 September 2020, the office of the Irish Taoiseach announced that Rusbridger was to be a member of Ireland's Future of Media Commission, a body to make recommendations about the future of the country's news media. Máiría Cahill called upon Rusbridger to resign from this position because in October 2014 The Guardian carried an article critical of her claims to have been a victim of sexual abuse by a former IRA member. The reporter was Roy Greenslade who, at the time, had not acknowledged that he was an IRA supporter. Rusbridger announced his resignation from the commission on 14 March 2021.[34][35]

Personal life and honours[edit]

In 1982, he married the educationalist Lindsay, daughter of the politician and farmer George Mackie, Baron Mackie of Benshie.[36][37] She helped found the educational charity FILMCLUB. They have two daughters: Isabella Rusbridger (born 28 July 1983) and a second daughter (born May 1986). Isabella is a journalist, known professionally as "Bella Mackie" to distinguish herself from her father. She is married to BBC Radio 1 presenter Greg James.[38]

Rusbridger received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Lincoln in September 2009,[39] from the University of Kingston in January 2010[40] and from the University of Oslo in September 2014.[41]

In 2010, he was chosen to deliver the annual Andrew Olle Media Lecture in Australia.

He was one of the 2014 recipients of the Right Livelihood Award.


  • The Guardian Year (1994) edited by Alan Rusbridger ISBN 1-85702-265-3
  • The Coldest Day in the Zoo (2004) ISBN 0-14-131745-0
  • The Wildest Day at the Zoo (2005) ISBN 0-14-131933-X
  • The Smelliest Day at the Zoo (2007) ISBN 0-14-132068-0
  • Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible (2012) ISBN 0224093770
  • Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now (6 September 2018) ISBN 978-1786890931
  • News: And How to Use It (26 November 2020) ISBN 9781838851613


  1. ^ "Rusbridger, Alan Charles". Who's Who 2013. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press.(subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e Ken Auletta "Annals of Communications: Freedom of Information", The New Yorker, 7 October 2013
  3. ^ Ponsford, Dominic; Turvill, William (29 May 2015). "'Brilliant, brave, visionary... without apparently breaking a sweat': Alan Rusbridger steps down after 20 years as Guardian editor". Press Gazette. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Guardian appoints Katharine Viner as editor-in-chief". The Guardian. 20 March 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Alan Rusbridger to Chair Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism". Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. 25 April 2016. Archived from the original on 27 August 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  6. ^ Wakefield, Jane (6 May 2020). "Facebook's 'supreme court' members announced". BBC News Online.
  7. ^ "Alan Rusbridger to be the next editor of Prospect magazine". 26 July 2021. Retrieved 31 July 2021. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  8. ^ Alan Rusbridger "Alan Rusbridger – Editor, The Guardian" Archived 8 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Press Gazette, 23 November 2005.
  9. ^ "A Moron's Guide to Alan Rusbridger". Vice. 22 August 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  10. ^ a b Stephen Armstrong "MEDIA: PROFILE; Guardian of journalistic integrity: Alan Rusbridger, Editor, the Guardian", PR Week, 11 October 1996.
  11. ^ Maggie Brown "Guardian names its new editor". The Independent, 25 January 1995
  12. ^ Alan Rusbridger "The long, slow road to libel reform". The Guardian, 10 May 2011.
  13. ^ Rob Brown "New Government! New Guardian! Alan Rusbridger is shaking up his staff with Blairite conviction". The Independent, 2 June 1997.
  14. ^ a b Peter Wilby "Alan Rusbridger: the quiet evangelist", New Statesman, 30 May 2012.
  15. ^ Rusbridger, Alan (31 August 2018). "Alan Rusbridger: who broke the news?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  16. ^ a b "Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger leaves Scott Trust". BBC News. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  17. ^ Guardian profile.
  18. ^ Halliday, Josh. "Rusbridger: destroying hard drives allowed us to continue NSA coverage". The Guardian.
  19. ^ Anthony Faiola, "Guardian editor defends publication of Snowden files", The Washington Post, 3 December 2012.
  20. ^ The Fifth Estate at IMDb
  21. ^ "Alan Rusbridger to step down as Guardian editor-in-chief". BBC News. 10 December 2014.
  22. ^ "Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger to step down next summer",, 10 December 2014
  23. ^ Media Mole "Alan Rusbridger stepping down as Guardian editor-in-chief", New Statesman website, 10 December 2014
  24. ^ Rigby, Elizabeth (20 April 2016). "Guardian staff furious as Rusbridger set to return". The Times. London. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  25. ^ Ponsford, Dominic (13 May 2016). "Alan Rusbridger falls on his sword rather than chair Scott Trust opposed by editor and chief executive". Press Gazette. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  26. ^ "Mr Alan Rusbridger elected as the next Principal of Lady Margaret Hall". Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  27. ^ "Alan Rusbridger to step down as LMH Principal in 2021". Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Retrieved 9 October 2021.
  28. ^ "Dame Liz Forgan appointed as new NYO Chair" Archived 2 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
  29. ^ "The Governors". The Ditchley Foundation. Archived from the original on 26 September 2006.
  30. ^ Rusbridger, Alan (6 March 2015). "Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  31. ^ "Rusbridger vs Chopin", Radio Times.
  32. ^ Snowden: Full Cast & Crew, IMDb, retrieved 3 October 2016
  33. ^ "Guardian editor receives European Press award for Edward Snowden story", The Guardian, 17 March 2014.
  34. ^ "Government Establishes Future of Media Commission" (Press release). Dublin: Department of the Taoiseach. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  35. ^ Leahy, Pat (14 March 2021). "Former Guardian editor resigns from media body amid row over IRA-supporting columnist". The Irish Times.
  36. ^ Torrance, David (18 February 2015). "Lord Mackie of Benshie". Daily Herald. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  37. ^ Aitken, Ian (17 February 2015). "Lord Mackie of Benshie obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  38. ^ "Guardian editor's daughter in Melanie Phillips row". The Jewish Chronicle. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
  39. ^ "Guardian chief editor honoured by university". The Linc. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
  40. ^ "Good news comes by degrees". Kingston University. 21 January 2010. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  41. ^ Norsk Telegrambyrå (2 September 2014). "Hyller Snowden-lekkasjer". Retrieved 8 September 2014.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
Succeeded by
Christine Gerrard (interim)
Media offices
Preceded by Deputy Editor of The Guardian
Succeeded by
Preceded by Editor of The Guardian
Succeeded by