... [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.