Robert Andreasch, worthy winner of Munich journalism award

2013 demo in Munich against the far right and in support of victims of the neo-Nazi NSU (linksfraktion:

2013 demo in Munich against the far right and in support of victims of the neo-Nazi NSU (linksfraktion:

Journalist Robert Andreasch has won Munich’s prestigious Publizistikpreis for his outstanding work on Germany’s far-right scene.

With work published across the country, the jury praised Andreasch for his in-depth research, notably in Bavaria. Unsurprisingly, those in the neo-Nazi scene see him as an enemy, as do the AfD, whose events he is banned from attending because of his work.

The 45-year-old attended many of the 438 days of the NSU trial, reports a local media organisation Bayerischer Rundfunk (Ger), and he has been targeted by extremists on several occasions. He told BR:

As a journalist, you are a real enemy. The extreme right, which is hallucinating about the downfall of the West or the German Volksgemeinschaft, blames us journalists. This causes an incomprehensible hatred - and this hatred causes an incomprehensible aggressiveness.

On the award, the official Munich city website (Ger) noted:

In the last 20 years, hardly any other journalist has visited Munich as often [as Andreasch] … when right-wing extremists met, whether in public or in situations and places where they wanted to remain … unnoticed. Andreasch has been repeatedly threatened and physically attacked. His pseudonym of Robert Andreasch offered him protection in his private life for only a few years. When in 2004 neo-Nazis found out his real name, Tobias Bezler, during a complaint against him, he has constantly been the target of slander and slander campaigns, especially on the websites and forums of the right-wing extremist scene.

My congratulations to Robert Andreasch for his brave and necessary work. There can hardly have been a more deserving winner of this Munich journalism prize.

Munich police raid on refugee shelter leaves mother with broken arm and son arrested

A local refugee help group rejected police version of events and criticised the media for not taking a more neutral line in their reporting

A local refugee help group rejected police version of events and criticised the media for not taking a more neutral line in their reporting

After the arrest of nine people in Munich’s Krailing district last week, a refugee help group today severely criticised both police and the media.

The police raided the Krailing refugee shelter, allegedly terrifying some of the inhabitants. When police tried to arrest an 18-year-old Afghan male, his mother tried to intervene to protect him, say the Asyl Helferkreises Krailling. The help group claim a policeman threw the lady ‘to the floor to the ground so hard that her arm was broken and teeth knocked out’.

The shock of the initial police raid and alleged police violence was compounded when nearby support squads of up to 100 police officers quickly arrived and detained nine other males.

The help group claim that there is video evidence of the whole event, though it appears that police confiscated mobile phones, including with the video evidence. The help group are also critical of the fact that some media organisations merely regurgitated the police account of the events, describing it as ‘one-sided’ in a press release.

Police say the 18-year-old Afghan resisted arrest and other inhabitants threw stones at them, leading to the further nine arrests.

New Pinakothek, exhibition: Die Neue Heimat (1950-1982), A Public Housing Corporation and Its Building

Die Neue Heimat exhibition runs from 28.02.2019 to 19.05.2019

Die Neue Heimat exhibition runs from 28.02.2019 to 19.05.2019

The tumultuous German 20th-century ended with a Germany that had never been so stable. Such stability was based, of course, on decades of post-war rebuilding, reconstruction and rehabilitation, secured in the wider context of extraordinary European cooperation.

The so-called Economic Wonder (Wirtschaftswunder) enabled Germany to rebuild after enormous material destruction, and a key element of it was enormous house-building projects. A fascinating exhibition entitled Die Neue Heimat (1950-1982), A Public Housing Corporation and Its Building gives visitors an insight into what ‘was the largest and most prominent non-state housing corporation in post-war Europe.’

Over 30-odd years, the Neue Heimat building corporation planned and built a staggering 460,000-plus apartments, and other municipal and commercial buildings across Germany – including Munich’s Neuperlach, Frankfurt’s Nordweststadt and Bremen’s Neue Vahr. Idealistic and ideological, architects and planners had genuine visions, even if some settlements have stood the time better than others.

Neue Heimat ended mired in scandal, but it still has something to say about what can be done on a huge scale – given the will and right economic and political environment. With cities a diverse as Munich to London desperately crying out for a joined-up thinking housing policy, we could do worse than look at the best of Neue Heimat to discover a way out of our contemporary housing crisis.


We all have images - stereotypical images, perhaps - of countries lodged in our brains, and it’s not easy getting past them (especially if they’re appealing). In recent years, however, my (yes, ok, stereotypical) image of Denmark as a friendly, open and tolerant northern European nation that loves little better than riding bikes, eating pastries and … erm … fish(?) has to a degree been shaken.

Not just because of edge-of-your-seat Nordic TV series, but because of the rise of populism in Denmark and the move to the right of even social democrats. Via research and interviews I did Danish with experts for my latest Business Spotlight article, I provided myself with a - hopefully - clearer picture of contemporary Denmark and Danes. As ever with these articles, there was much to delight; and much to worry.

With Brexit, Tump and populism dominating so much of the news agenda, let’s for today, however, focus on the positive – and the fact that Copenhagen (still a bastion of tolerance, it seems) seems bent on becoming something of a model eco-conscious city, with its 20,000 daily cyclists around its 400 kilometres of cycle lanes highlighting that there is more to getting people on bikes than perfect weather. And the sustainability measures that the city has put in - and is putting in - are mightily impressive. It aims to be carbon neutral by 2025, ahead of most other cities in the world - ahead of Munich, for example, whose sustainability credentials I’m also currently researching for a different publication (more on this in a week or two). For what it’s worth, while Munich does really well in terms of sustainability for a city of more than a million people, it could nevertheless still learn a thing or two from the much smaller Copenhagen.

For my Business Spotlight Denmark article, thanks to;
Steen Hommel from Invest in Denmark
Anne Lindhardt of the eco-focused and organic Nordic Fast Food and also intercultural consultancy Kommunikation & Kultur
Michala Clante Bendixen, founder of — an NGO and Danish–English website that does wonderful work on behalf of refugees in Denmark. Michala has written a handful of articles for The Guardian


Business Spotlight: Brexit Britain

From Stability to Chaos


Britain has long been seen as one of Europe’s most reliable and stable countries. Since the momentous Brexit referendum on 23 June 2016, however, the UK has been mired in political chaos. The vote split the country, with 52 per cent wanting to leave the EU and 48 per cent voting to remain. The final outcome of the Brexit debates and negotiations re- mains unknown. Whatever the outcome, the country needs to gather its thoughts, come back together and start to heal. In this special report, we hear from experts on intercultural communication, economics, language and business.

Business Spotlight is available in shops across Germany, and by print or digital subscription or one-off copies via Spotlight Verlag.


Book Review: The Unravelling. High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq


I have an almost instinctively antipathetic feeling towards Emma Sky’s The Unravelling, which resurfaces every so often throughout her book. Oddly, the more I read, the more I was sure she would have felt something similar had she been merely reading it as opposed to being the book’s narrator. Ultimately, however, The Unravelling is a must-read for anyone interested in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and its catastrophic consequences.

In the lead up to the war, Emma Sky knew her own mind, and it was determinedly against the US-led invasion. She claims to come from an unremarkable, albeit broken, home, though her schooling (her mother was a matron at a private school, where she became a pupil) suggests different. Compared to run-of-the-mill working-class kids in the UK, this alone meant she was in a different league in life opportunity terms.

It helps if such an opportunity comes with intelligence, and she won a place at Oxford, where she further developed her passion for the Middle East. She worked for NGOs and the British Council there, promoting peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.

She volunteered for three months to help in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, and – reflecting the Allied lack of a robust plan for after the defeat of Saddam Hussein – quickly (and still, for me, inexplicably) became the de-facto governor of the province of Kirkuk. Almost comically, as she told the UK’s post-war Iraq Inquiry, she received no prior instructions as to what her job would be, never mind being named as a governor. She went on to become the political advisor to the US military, notably Colonel William Mayville and General Ray Odierno, both of whom come out of Sky’s book vey well.

As well as providing great first-hand contextualisation of various ethnic, religious, geographical and personal disputes across the country, she does not exculpate the US for its role in the ‘unravelling’ – even if she might frustrate some in her refusal to be more brutal in her criticism. She chides Joe Biden and President Obama for their support of former prime minister Nuri al-Mailiki, in the face of clear evidence that he was becoming increasingly authoritarian and factional, and that a civil war might result.

Sky was right in opposing the war in the first place because she had an inkling of what might come, and she was right in her reasons for opposing Maliki. And though it is tempting to damn her for being there, for her claim to have played a role on the ground in offsetting the worst instincts of the occupiers, it’s clear that she genuinely believed in what she was doing.

At the heart of The Unravelling is Sky’s desire to engender a better understanding between different sections of Iraqi society, and between Iraqis and the US military. And though it hardly makes my scepticism of the book completely disappear, this, alongside the fact it’s a compelling read, goes some way to dampening it.



Book review - John Robertson, Iraq. A History


The problem of the history of Iraq, it might be argued, is that for too many people it starts with the so-called first Gulf or Iraq War in 1991, takes in the second Iraq War in 2003, perhaps also the discovery and execution of Saddam Hussein, not forgetting oil, and it might then conclude with something about sectarian violence, utter chaos, ISIS and perhaps refugees.

But millennia before the US-led invasions of 1991 and 2003, Iraq played a leading role in world history. On the one hand, damned for its advantageous Middle Eastern location (with the Tigris and Euphrates running through it), it was the cradle of civilisation and as far as we know the location of the world’s first towns and cities, dating back to 5000-6000 BCE.  

Reflecting this history and in fewer than 400 pages, John Robertson’s Iraq. A History is a masterful book that takes readers on the most remarkable of journeys, starting in ancient Mesopotamia. It skilfully takes in countless ‘firsts’ in world history, and dissects geographical, cultural, tribal, religious and economic factors that continue to feed into what is now called Iraq.  

There are great civilisations, from the Sumer in the floodplains of the Tigris and Euphrates, the first writing in the form of Cuneiform, the Code of Hammurabi from Old Babylonia, great architecture and rulers, not forgetting countless invasions, just some of whom have been Genghis Kahn, Arab tribes, the Ottomans, British and Americans. Affluence and plenty are as much a part of Iraq’s history as the suffering, and even its greatest cities have been destroyed, sometimes rebuilt.

The modern day destruction of large parts of the country, however,' jars, not simply because it is for us the ‘history of today’, but because it was so patently avoidable. This should never absolve Saddam Hussein from responsibility for the crimes he inflicted on his own people, but the catastrophe from the West’s sanctions onwards in the 1990s must inform future decisions. It’s worth quoting Robertson on the effect of the sanctions":

As Iraq’s water, sanitation, power-generation, and medical systems became increasingly dilapidated and dysfunctional, disease and malnutrition felled thousands of Iraqis, including by some estimates 8880,00 Iraqi children under five years of age. An assessment of the impact of these sanctions that was published in 1999 spotlighted the irony that the number of Iraqi deaths they had caused exceeded the number ‘slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history.’

Today Iraqis – with millions still displaced due to the 2003 US/British invasion and the subsequent terror inflicted by ISIS – continue their attempt to come to terms with the devastation inflicted on their country. Many mourn the destruction, some are no longer able to return home, and some even long for the seemingly old stability of the Saddam decades.  

So, in the wake of such recent history, it’s self-evident that there is no good news from Iraq, isn’t it? Actually, no, this is far from incorrect. Thankfully, decent journalists are returning to Iraq, reporting accurately that despite everything, a sense of ‘normality’ is slowly returning. Families visit shopping malls, watch films, cook and discuss the future.  

Of course, with ISIS still in existence, long-term water-supply and general infrastructure challenges, economic dislocation (and an over-reliance on planet-harmful oil extraction, coveted by many countries), alongside the inevitable outside interests, such as Iran, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and a society to a degree split on religious or ethnic grounds, it doesn’t pay to be complacent. Indeed, many doubt the viability of the country, suggesting it cannot be held together in the medium term.

But as Robertson’s book shows, though there is no quick-fix solution, Iraq should not be written off – if for nothing else than a country with such a long and fascinating history surely has something to offer modern civilisations.

Poverty Safari, Darren McGarvey

Every so often, you read a book and recognise its importance, though it’s not always easy to understand exactly why. With Darren McGarvey’s Poverty Safari, almost every page makes you think, rethink, question and reflect.


Glasgow-born McGarvey, also known by his rapper name of Loki, has for more than a decade worked with people in the city on the issue of poverty. He’s made programmes for the BBC, been a commentator and speaker as an expert on the issue and he’s told his own story of being raised with a sometimes violent, alcoholic mother, and his own subsequent addictions to alcohol, fast food and drugs.

Poverty Safari draws readers in with McGarvey’s personal story and why he became a socialist, a left-wing activist and campaigner. Its brilliance, however, is its uncanny ability to engender a semi-comfortable feeling at the same time as jolting readers out of their liberal-left comfort zone as he questions his – and their – beliefs and motives. It’s uncomfortable and it’s challenging.

While never propounding right-wing fantasies of tiny government, he wants working class communities to take responsibility and control of their lives, not to fall back onto simply blaming the government, neoliberalism or the middle-class. Far from letting those with power off the hook, or reducing government’s responsibility for tackling poverty and inequality, in effect McGarvey is saying: ‘We can no longer afford to wait for those in power to make a difference; we need to organise, take responsibility and transform our society.’

If Poverty Safari is a call to arms, it is one of recognising that neither poverty will be overcome any time soon nor a more equitable state created if we wait for capitalism to fail or governments of any stripe to make the necessary decisions to transform working-class lives. In fact, it’s about recognising that self-interest means that the powerful (governments to corporations to anti-poverty campaigners) will not do enough. He says:

A pathological belief that only the state can resolve this issue is both disempowering and self-defeating in the short and medium term. This is not submission; this is to acknowledge the complexity of the matter.

Once you accept that the government isn’t going to fix this issue any time soon, it whittles down the options. It removes some of the onus from governments and places it directly on us.

The final part of the book includes a fascinating story about artist and academic Ellie Harrison, who was pilloried for a project she announced she was undertaking in Glasgow, with McGarvey one of her loudest critics. He later questioned his motives in attacking her and her project, and while arguing ‘her approach was misguided, clumsy and poorly conceived’, he was scathing about his presumptions, concluding:

 I was so consumed by my own anger and moral certainty, it had blinded me to the fact that Ellie Harrison, in all her middle-class glory, was not an enemy, but an ally in the war I’d been fighting all my life.

Happier inside his own skin, it was a reflection of McGarvey’s ongoing attempt to come to terms with his own difficult past, his anger and at the same time as reasserting his fight against poverty and injustice would continue.

 Krishnan Guru-Murthy of the UK’s superb Channel 4 News did an interview with McGarvey, which is well worth watching.

Glaswegian rapper Loki is this year's Orwell Prize winner for his book 'Poverty Safari'. He talks to Krishnan about how he negotiated a difficult childhood and an alcohol problem, how he thinks poverty can be tackled and why the left need to reclaim the idea of personal responsibility.

As an aside: when reading Poverty Safari on an S-Bahn in Munich in late December, a young woman recognised the book and asked me about it. She was actually from France and explained that one of her friends works for a German publishing house, which was considering translating and publishing it. Though focused on Glasgow, McGarvey’s observations and experiences would certainly add a great deal to the debate on poverty in Germany, too.

Spotlight: Pakistan


In early 2018, I was commissoned by Spotlight magazine in Munich to write an article on contemporary Pakistan - Spotlight is an English-language magazine read across the German-speaking world. It’s also a brilliant language-learning tool. That lots of people in Pakistan speak English was central to the commission, and the idea was to take it from there.

I was, however, determined to eschew the usual stereotypes of Pakistan. With some terrific interview partners, and a great layout, we came up with what I hope is more nuanced depiction of the country than that usually presented in much of the press across the world. Thanks particularly to Kamran Khan (general secretary of the UK Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry) and Ramsha Jahangir, a forward-thinking young writer at Dawn newspaper, who has high hopes for her country.

Issue 5/2018 Spotlight magazine

Pakistan – behind the headlines

Pakistan really is a land of opportunity,” says Kamran Khan, general secretary of the UK Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “It has so much potential, it’s situated in a strategic location, it has a very young population and it is very dynamic.”

To hear Pakistan described as a “land of opportunity” may come as a surprise to some. Since the British left India in 1947 and partitioned the country, India and Pakistan have struggled to recover from the terrible violence and population transfers that ensued: a million people died and 15 million were displaced. Since then, Pakistan has rarely appeared in the media in a positive light.


Business Spotlight: Israel

Tel Aviv has a great energy,” says Amir Fattal. “It’s such a young, vibrant city,” he adds. “It’s open 24/7 and there are always people out on the street. It feels so lively when you’re there. And there is the amazing weather all of the time, and the beach is within walking distance — it’s such a great life.” Then, however, comes the qualification: “If it weren’t for the political situation, the place would be heaven.”

Conflicted Country, article for Business Spotlight (issue 6/2018)

Conflicted Country, article for Business Spotlight (issue 6/2018)

Writing about Israel is rarely straight forward – for the simple fact that so many people have an opinion on it. Nevertheless, it can be hugely rewarding. For my article in Business Spotlight magazine in September 2018 (Spotlight Issue 6/2018), I talked to Berlin-based artist Amir Fattal, who discussed his family origins in Iraq, why some creative people feel the need to leave Israel and his passion for 3D publishing (bigrep). British economist Paul Rivlin (senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies) provided wise words on the Israeli economy while Osnat Lautman Mansoor (who is part German, part Brazilian) did likewise about Israel and cross-cultural communications (her latest book, Israeli Business Culture Building Effective Business Relationships with Israelis, has just been published)

Business Spotlight is available in shops across Germany, and by print or digital subscription or one-off copies via Spotlight Verlag.

Business Spotlight magazine: South Korea

“Divided into democracy and dictatorship after a catastrophic war. Separated by a militarized border. And home to vastly different economic models. Sound familiar? Yes, there are more than just symbolic similarities between post-Second World War Germany and the post-war Korean Peninsula.”

In a recent article for Business Spotlight magazine I pick up on the striking parallels between South Korea and Germany in the 20th century. But, as I make clear, these similarities shouldn’t be overdone, because at the same time they also have much that also separates them.

South Korea article for Business Spotlight (issue 5/2018)

South Korea article for Business Spotlight (issue 5/2018)

The article includes interviews with, for example, Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a senior lecturer in international relations at King’s College London, Anne Ladouceur, the Canadian-born owner of the website, and Susanne Woehrle, who worked for BMW for 25 years and now works in vocational training for the German Chamber of Commerce in Seoul.

Pardo delves into the tricky business of Trump, relations with North Korea and the challenges of future economic growth. Ladoucer stresses the importance of personal networks and Woehrle goes through the intricacies of doing business there.

Business Spotlight is available in shops across Germany, and by print or digital subscription or one-off copies via Spotlight Verlag.

Thousands of dead fish ... the rivers of Babylon

After all the troubles that Iraq has suffered in past decades, as recent reports have highlighted, it has also added the environment to its long list of serious woes. The proclaimed defeat of ISIS in 2017 was followed by elections in May 2018, but the country is still waiting for its next government to be finalised. And in Basra, fed up protesters took to the streets during the scorching summer heat, demanding everything from a reduced Iranian influence in Iraq to reliable supplies of electricity and water.

Uploaded by عراقية on 2018-11-02.

As this video shows in the historic region of Babylon, this part of the Euphrates River is suffering from what seems to be lack of water, which is killing what looks like tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of fish. I’m not familiar with the reliability of the sources here, but according to Kurdistan24 it appears it’s not clear exactly how much of the cause is environmental (i.e. water shortages) and/or disease. The latter report I’ve linked to also says, ‘The Ministry of Agriculture has not ruled out that the deaths were intentional, though the exact strategy behind any proposed scheme was unclear.’

What is absolutely clear, however, is Iraq’s national – as well as its wider geo-political – challenges might end up being the least of its problems if the wider world doesn’t begin to seriously address water shortages and other major environmental issues there.

Lacrosse interview – German and US players in Munich


In almost two decades of journalism, my writing has taken me on a cruise down the Danube, to Michelin-starred restaurants in London and South Tyrol, Bayern Munich’s training ground to speak to star players, and refugees fleeing from war-torn Syria. This morning, on a particularly chilly autumnal Munich morning, I’d arranged to meet two Munich-based lacrosse players for an article in Spotlight magazine.

Jackie Klaus, outside the HLC Rot-Weiß München club house ( © Paul Wheatley )

Jackie Klaus, outside the HLC Rot-Weiß München club house (© Paul Wheatley)

Laura Koroschek (below) came south to Munich from Kiel more than a decade ago, and quickly joined HLC Rot-Weiß München. She has gone on to represent the German national team (German). She was accompanied by Jackie Klaus, (left) originally from the US, who moved to Cologne in search of adventure – and to coach the local lacrosse team. She now coaches and plays for HLC Rot-Weiß München.

Laura Koschorek, outside the HLC Rot-Weiß München club house ( © Paul Wheatley )

Laura Koschorek, outside the HLC Rot-Weiß München club house (© Paul Wheatley)

We met for the interview on the edge of the huge Westpark (German), outside the HLC Rot-Weiß München club house, and in total we talked for around an hour, with my kids watching and listening intently in the background (if they found it still fascinating after an hour, that’s good enough for me!). These athletes are increasingly professional in an amateur sport, and such interviews can often prove to be the most interesting and rewarding - this certainly was.

The interview will appear in Spotlight in early 2019. In the meantime, thanks to Laura and Jackie for taking the time to talk about lacrosse, and for providing so much interesting background information on a host of lacrosse-related issues – and thanks for letting me know that today is a bank holiday! Being a freelancer and working ostensibly from home has many positive sides, but one of the things not so great is so often losing track of days.

Thanks very much, ladies! And I hope to see you in action for your final home game before the winter break on 11 November (see map above for location).

Book review: Alan Rusbridger, Breaking News. The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now


‘‘Will the public rediscover their appetite for good, old-fashioned reporting and investigations?’ asks Alan Rusbridger in the final pages of his fascinating Breaking News. ‘Will Facebook and Google sweep all away?’ he continues. ‘Might there, in the end, be no conventional economic model for news? Will the remaking of journalism be far more radical than most people can currently begin to imagine?’[1]

Rusbridger, who for two decades from 1995 led the outstanding Guardian newspaper as its editor, is not ashamed to admit that he still isn’t sure. Indeed, this refreshing readiness to publicly accept that journalists do not have, and have never had, a monopoly on knowledge and good sense is a central theme running right through his book. In an age when newspapers are no longer the main source of ‘news’ for many people, it matters that the newspaper industry recognises that serving information from upon high to a compliant, paying readership will no longer suffice – in fact, it’s no longer possible.

Rusbridger had loosely recognised that the internet would radically transform the news business before he took up the editorship position at the Guardian. But though to a large degree he successfully drove his newspaper through an insanely turbulent 20 years, from conventional news gathering to digitalisation, just as today, he had few notions about exactly where it would all lead.

This book, therefore, is far from the usual journalistic walk down memory lane (compare the fantastic My Paper Chase by former Times editor Harald Evans); in fact, what makes it so interesting is the fact that Rusbridger gives us a revealing behind-the-scenes view of the utter bewilderment across the industry as newspapers struggled for their very existence.

Amidst diminishing paper sales and attempts to come up with a functioning digital strategy as advertisers abandoned print for online, which split old-style believers in print with those (often younger) who saw digital as the future for the newspaper, the Guardian broke some of the most sensational stories of this century so far, such as phone hacking by the tabloid media, Wikileaks and Snowden – not to mention taking on numerous legal fights.

Window of the building housing The Guardian newspaper, London England © Bryantbob~commonswiki

Window of the building housing The Guardian newspaper, London England
© Bryantbob~commonswiki

For years now, such stories have ensured the Guardian could acquire and hold a huge readership in the US, which, of course, is where major revenues lay. It’s interesting to learn how this once unfashionable ‘liberal-lefty’ newspaper from Manchester (which had relocated to London), with its relatively small UK readership (ninth biggest in the UK[2]), transformed itself into an internationally renowned publication with a huge readership reach, including across North America.

No doubt for some, the over-focus on US news can be irritating (and some find it hard to forgive the Americanisms), though it’s difficult to criticise when it also does UK news so well; and its worldwide news, including through various innovations and collaborations (micro-sites, for example), is doing so well. As with everything nowadays, you need to adjust your preferences on the Guardian homepage to focus on the news you want to read.

Thousands of newspapers, many that had been around for many decades, simply couldn’t cope with the digital onslaught, as the likes of tech giants FaceBook and Twitter either took advertisement money (which had always been the basis of newspapers’ viability)[3] or readers’ attention - or both. Many closed, others went exclusively online (the Independent), some are still struggling, newsrooms depleted, ‘journalists’ churning out articles unworthy of their profession.

Data, technology and the internet has helped destroy many newspapers. Others have - eventually - made it work for them, by allowing newspapers to know their readers better than ever before, and tailor ‘news’ accordingly. The Guardian knows that in 2016 in the UK, ‘the average income of a reader … was GBP24,000 – or GBP20,412 online,’ – the medium household disposable income in the same year was GBP26,300.[4] It confirms that a small readership and paywall model would never work.

Though far from smooth, and with still uncertainty of how the next digital innovation will batter it, the Guardian is now flourishing. Underpinned by a GBP1 billion endowment, which is meant to ensure its long-term survival, by 2011 it was the second-most read English-language newspaper in the world, behind the New York Times.[5] So far, its determination to a reject a paywall, its turn to the US[6] (there ‘was no such thing as “abroad” any more’, he writes on page 169) and its digital-first strategy, complemented by setting up an office in Australia (that is now making money) is working. In October 2015, the Guardian became overtook the New York Times (though the click-bait happy Mail Online was by then number one in English).[7]

‘The weakness of the press,’ writes Rusbridger, ‘was slowly eroding its watchdog functions, enabling the rise of fake news.’[8] And in a period of populism, Trumpism, racism, and antisemitic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and countless other challenges to the tolerant, fact-checked world we thought might be possible, newspapers who can be relied upon to tell the truth are invaluable.

The Guardian and other reputable sources of information and opinion certainly do not get everything right, and they should also be challenged and fact-checked. But proper journalism is expensive: the cost of a Washington correspondent, says Rusbridger, can cost GBP500,000 and Baghdad close to a million.[9]

Nevertheless, journalists holding the powerful to account, producing articles that seek truth not hyperbole, in which readers can place a high degree of trust, no matter their imperfection, are vital for a functioning democracy.

On his website, Rusbridger has a link for an extract for the book.

[1] Alan Rusbridger, Breaking News, p. 379

[2] Rusbridger, Breaking News, p. 336

[3] Rusbridger says that a GBP5,000 newspaper ad would cost GBP400 online (this seems to be around 2006)

[4] Rusbridger, Breaking News, p. 211

[5] Rusbridger, Breaking News, p. 275

[6] See pp. 133 for conclusion about paywall and the US; on a trip to the US in 2007, ‘people wanted to know when we would do more in America …’ – just one of many indicators of the reorientation towards the US, p. 137

[7] Rusbridger, Breaking News, p. 336

[8] Rusbridger, Breaking News, p. 176

[9] Rusbridger, Breaking News, p. 209