... [Rusbridger's] painstaking account is fascinating, even for those of us who lived both the peril and the promise ... It will be his successors who write the story of how journalism [came into the present] moment, but Rusbridger’s early assessments are among his most sober.
In Breaking News, Alan Rusbridger, who became editor of the respected liberal British daily the Guardian in 1995, surveys the tumultuous two decades that led to the present moment. He is a well-informed, earnest and entertaining (if long-winded) guide, armed with both statistics and anecdotes ... Breaking News defends the Guardian’s boundary-stretching collaborations with mega-leakers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. Rusbridger may lack the writerly grace and skill of, say, Katharine Graham, whose memoir of her years running the Washington Post is a dramatic, readable marvel. Still, his book is a compelling behind-the-scenes guide to a revolutionary era in newspaper making.
There is a tension in Breaking News between the book as, on the one hand, an autobiographical account of a career journey from local reporter in Cambridge to helmsman of the new, globalised Guardian and, on the other, as a broader examination of the crisis of ‘news’ in the hyperconnected age. There are reasons to weave the strands together. Rusbridger’s career happened to coincide with vertiginous disruption ... If at times the book does read like a retelling of the greatest hits of the Guardian under Rusbridger’s editorship, this could be justified, too, as a ledger of the kind of public service journalism that might not have been pursued had the Guardian and its like not been around, from the investigation into Jonathan Aitken, who ended up being jailed for perjury, to Nick Davies’s exposure of tabloid phone-hacking, which led to the closure of the News of the World ... There are odd moments of cognitive dissonance when Rusbridger drifts from the simple truth that, no matter how much a paper builds its readership, that readership will always be a public rather than the public ... At times, Rusbridger evokes the pre-internet era of news media as if it were a golden age compared to today’s post-truth maelstrom.
The book he [Rusbridger] has written is eloquent in its argument for well-resourced journalism, and never better than in its central narrative of how an old profession struggled to cope with a new technology that threatened it with obsolescence—averted, in the Guardian’s case, by the commitment and generosity of its readers.
...in Breaking News you get the inside story of the loneliness and unexpected self-doubt of the editor who must decide whether to go or not, knowing that in the case of the Snowden revelations, jail could easily have been the outcome ... In the defining stories there are revelations only of personal detail. The facts have long since been trawled over in inquiries, books and even Hollywood movies. The pleasure of the Monty Pythonesque tale of the British spooks insisting on the Guardian taking angle-grinders to destroy Snowden computers, even though multiple copies existed in the US under the protection of the First Amendment, endures ... The importance of the book, however, lies beyond memoirs of journalistic derring-do or certainties on how the world of the future should be ... Breaking News is a significant book for newspapers, journalism and anyone who cares about their increasingly vital contribution to an informed democracy in the midst of information chaos and fake news.
Rusbridger’s book reads, on the one hand, as an absorbing journalism memoir by an editor who played a role in some of the biggest investigative stories of our time, including the revelations about U.S. government surveillance disclosed by Edward Snowden. But it also amounts to a kind of textbook, filled with interesting ruminations about what form journalism should take in the digital age, with explanations of the Guardian’s experiments with live blogs and its theory of 'open journalism,' which is built around encouraging reader participation. The portrait of Rusbridger that emerges is that of the rarest of newsroom species—someone with genuine bona fides as a journalist and an unassailable commitment to the profession’s enduring values, who also possesses the curiosity, nimbleness of mind, and openness to change necessary to navigate the relentless, shape-shifting challenges that lie ahead for media companies today.
While this is essentially an account of his tenure [at The Guardian], Rusbridger also offers fascinating and disturbing insights into the present and future status of journalism in its various manifestations ... Rusbridger eloquently describes the dangers of this era.
Mr. Rusbridger... spins a lively yarn from his 40 years in journalism. His memoir is particularly pertinent in revealing how he and his management team repurposed the Guardian for survival in a digital age.
Evident throughout is the author’s patent pride in the Guardian and his disdain for writers, publications, and consumers that eschew fact in favor of bias and hype. Rusbridger ends on a note of hope—and concern: 'Trust me, we do not want a world without news.' In equal measure: informative, alarming, discerning, hopeful, proud, and humble.