Katharine Viner

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Katharine Viner (born 1971[1]) is a British journalist and playwright. She became the first female editor-in-chief at The Guardian on 1 June 2015 succeeding Alan Rusbridger.[2][3] Viner previously headed The Guardian's web operations in Australia and the US, before being selected for the editor-in-chief's position.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Raised in Yorkshire,[1] the daughter of teachers, her grandfather Vic Viner was an able seaman involved in the Dunkirk evacuation.[5][6] Viner was educated at Ripon Grammar School,[7] where she was head girl.[8] Her first newspaper article, published in The Guardian in 1987 while she was still at school, was on the ending of the GCE O level examinations, which were being replaced in the UK by the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).[9] "Cramming five years of knowledge into two and a half hours does not seem to be a fair system," she wrote.[8] Around 1988, Viner had a period of work experience at the Ripon Gazette, her local newspaper.[10][11]

Subsequently Viner read English at Pembroke College, Oxford.[8] Just before her finals, Viner won a competition organised by The Guardian's women's page and was advised by Louise Chunn, then Guardian women's editor, to pursue a career in journalism. "I honestly thought journalism wasn't for me, I thought it was for men in suits in London", she remembered in 2005.[12] During her 20s, Viner spent most of her holidays in the Middle East, a region for which she has a particular interest, spending time in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, the West Bank and other locations.[12]

Career beginnings[edit]

For work experience, Viner joined Cosmopolitan, a women's monthly magazine. The magazine retained her afterwards and she became features assistant, then news and careers editor.[12] After three years at The Sunday Times, working as a commissioning editor and writer for the magazine,[12] Viner joined The Guardian in 1997. Following a period on the staff of the women's page, she became editor of the Saturday Weekend supplement in 1998. She became features editor in 2006[13] and deputy editor in 2008 at the same time as Ian Katz.[14] Viner edited the Saturday edition of The Guardian from 2008 to 2012.[9]

Laura Slattery in The Irish Times, reviewing Viner's career up to March 2015, noted that she "has almost always been the person who does the commissioning, [rather than] provided the byline".[15] Several Guardian pieces by Viner published during this period are reprinted in an anthology drawn from the Guardian archive entitled Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism (2010), edited by Kira Cochrane.[16]

Australia and New York[edit]

In January 2013, Viner's relocation to Sydney to supervise a new Guardian digital edition in Australia was announced;[17] this venture was launched in May 2013.[18]

Viner delivered the AN Smith Lecture in Journalism at the University of Melbourne in October 2013.[19][20] D. D. Guttenplan, London correspondent of the American Nation magazine, wrote in March 2015 that "there is no one on either side of the [Atlantic] ocean who has thought as deeply as Viner about the relationship between readers, technology and the future of journalism."[21] Guttenplan is not totally convinced by Viner's "eagerness to transcend print" in the move to digital media, but commenting about her 2013 speech in Australia, he writes that "her arguments for the importance of reader engagement, and for sustained, original reporting of information that someone, somewhere, wants to keep secret are compelling and convincing."[21]

In the summer of 2014, Viner moved to New York and became the new head of The Guardian's American website in succession to Janine Gibson. Viner remained deputy editor of Guardian News & Media.[18][22]

Editor-in-chief of The Guardian[edit]


In March 2015, Viner won a majority in the ballot of Guardian and Observer editorial staff as the favoured successor of Alan Rusbridger as The Guardian's editor-in-chief. Viner received 53% of first-choice votes from the 964 staff who participated, and was thus shortlisted for selection.[23] Former deputy editor and rival,[24] Ian Katz (editor of the BBC's Newsnight television programme since 2013), was also on the final short list of two.[25]

Viner was appointed editor-in-chief on 20 March 2015, the first woman to be the editor of The Guardian in its 194-year history,[3] and assumed her new post on 1 June 2015.[2][26] She intends to make the "media organisation" a "home for the most ambitious journalism, ideas and events" which is able to reach "out to readers all around the world."[3][27]

It has been suggested by former Guardian columnist Michael Wolff that another of Viner's rivals to succeed Rusbridger, Janine Gibson, suffered because of internal disquiet over the internal impact on The Guardian of the Edward Snowden revelations which Gibson edited in New York.[28] Peter Wilby, writing in the New Statesman, preferred a different explanation: "Viner is a more charming, more inclusive and less threatening figure than Janine Gibson, who started as the bookies’ and Rusbridger’s favourite."[29]

Later developments[edit]

In March 2016, Viner and Guardian News and Media chief executive David Pemsel announced cost-cutting measures, leading to the projected loss of 250 jobs, to reduce unsustainable losses in order to break even within three years. The following month, The Times reported internal tensions within the organisation as Rusbridger prepared to become Chairman of the Scott Trust, the ultimate overseer to ensure The Guardian survives "in perpetuity". Rusbridger's expansion of the company's operations was reportedly seen by staff as responsible for the decisions which Viner and Pemsel have made.[30] Viner and David Pemsel successfully opposed Rusbridger becoming Chair of the Scott Trust and he dropped plans to take up the post.[31]

Other work[edit]

Outside journalism Viner is known for My Name Is Rachel Corrie, a play she co-edited with actor Alan Rickman from the writings and emails of Rachel Corrie, an American activist who was killed by a bulldozer operated by the Israeli Army in Rafah, Gaza in 2003.[32][33] The play was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in 2005.[32] After Rickman died of cancer in January 2016, Viner wrote that their collaboration had been initially difficult, but "on the opening night we each admitted that we couldn’t have done justice to Rachel’s words without the other".[34]

Viner was a judge in the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2004[35] and was on the board of the Royal Court Theatre for 13 years.[36]


  1. ^ a b Katharine Viner "Dear diary ...", The Guardian, 27 November 2004
  2. ^ a b "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women #80 Katharine Viner", Forbes, [26 May 2015]
  3. ^ a b c "Guardian appoints Katharine Viner as editor-in-chief", The Guardian, 20 March 2015
  4. ^ "Katharine Viner Profile page", The Guardian
  5. ^ Davies, Caroline (2 October 2016). "Vic Viner obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "Vic Viner". The Times. 31 October 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.  (subscription required)
  7. ^ "General Information: A short history of Ripon Grammar School", Ripon Grammar School
  8. ^ a b c "Former Ripon Grammar head girl appointed first female editor-in-chief of the Guardian", Ripon Grammar School
  9. ^ a b Dominic Ponsford "New Guardian editor Katharine Viner's challenge: What to do with 964 staff and £850m", Press Gazette, 24 March 2015
  10. ^ "Top editor gives inspirational talk at Grammar School speech day", Ripon Gazette, 9 November 2005
  11. ^ David Prior "Former Ripon Gazette work experience girl is new editor of The Guardian", Ripon Gazette, 23 March 2015
  12. ^ a b c d Julie Tomlin "‘It’s good to feel scared from time to time’", Press Gazette, 6 May 2005
  13. ^ Dominic Ponsford "Guardian aims big guns at web", Press Gazette, 3 February 2006
  14. ^ Laura Oliver "Guardian News & Media names Paul Johnson as deputy editor", Journalism.co.uk, 6 August 2008
  15. ^ Laura Slattery "Katharine Viner to balance news and 'fun' at the Guardian", Irish Times,
  16. ^ This includes an article by Viner reflecting on Misconceptions, a book by feminist author Naomi Wolf concerning Wolf's first experience of childbirth, and other aspects of her career, See Katharine Viner "Stitched up", The Guardian, 1 September 2001, reprinted in Kira Cochrane (ed.) Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism, London: Guardian Books, 2010 [2012 ebook], p.165ff
  17. ^ Mark Sweney "Guardian News & Media to launch digital Australia edition", guardian.co.uk, 15 January 2013
  18. ^ a b "Guardian News & Media announces senior editorial changes", theguardian.com (press release), 6 March 2014
  19. ^ Katharine Viner "The rise of the reader: journalism in the age of the open web", The Guardian, 9 October 2013. The article includes a link to the University of Melbourne video of Viner's speech.
  20. ^ "A.N.Smith Lecture in Journalism 2013", University of Melbourne
  21. ^ a b D.D. Guttenplan "The Changing of 'The Guardian'", The Nation, 23 March 2015
  22. ^ Ravi Somaiya "Guardian to Make Management Changes", New York Times, 6 March 2014
  23. ^ "Katharine Viner wins staff ballot for Guardian editor", theguardian.com, 5 March 2015
  24. ^ Peter Preston "Enter Katharine Viner at the Guardian: new editor, old hand", The Observer, 22 March 2015
  25. ^ Adam Sherwin "Katharine Viner appointed editor-in-chief of the Guardian", The Independent, 20 March 2015
  26. ^ Stephen Castle and Ravi Somaiya "Guardian Names Katharine Viner as New Editor", New York Times, 20 March 2015
  27. ^ Henry Mance "Katharine Viner appointed Guardian editor", Financial Times, 20 March 2015
  28. ^ Michael Wolff "Snowden effect hits 'Guardian'", USA Today, 20 March 2015
  29. ^ Peter Wilby "Labour in a trap, Cameron’s decade debacle, democracy at the Guardian and Leicester’s losers", New Statesman, 8 April 2015
  30. ^ Rigby, Elizabeth (20 April 2016). "Guardian staff furious as Rusbridger set to return". The Times. London. Retrieved 20 April 2016. 
  31. ^ 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. 
  32. ^ a b Katharine Viner "'Let me fight my monsters'", The Guardian, 8 April 2005
  33. ^ Peter Beaumont "Rachel Corrie's family loses wrongful death appeal in Israel's supreme court", The Guardian, 13 February 2015
  34. ^ Viner, Katharine (14 January 2016). "Alan Rickman: the most loyal, playful and generous of friends". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 January 2016. 
  35. ^ Katharine Viner "Read 'em and weep", The Guardian, 9 June 2004
  36. ^ John Harrington "The Guardian names Katharine Viner as first female editor-in-chief", PR Week, 20 March 2015

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Alan Rusbridger
Editor of The Guardian