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Power to the people: Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger on journalism, blogging and Twitter

The Guardian's coverage of G20 was achieved through the combination of traditional reporters doing the footwork and the mass observation of the crowd, according the newspaper’s editor-in-chief.

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Alan Rusbridger
Alan Rusbridger

Alan Rusbridger made the comment during his guest lecture ‘Newspapers Without Walls’ at Queen Mary, University of London, which took place on Tuesday 28 April, as part of the College’s Arts Week celebrations.

Mr Rusbridger talked about the way that journalism at the Guardian is changing – in its relationship with power, relationship with the law and its relationships with readers – in a bid to answer the questions of whether there is a continuing need for and role for journalism.

He described reporting, in its traditional sense, as “something that was done to people” and acknowledged that there was almost a complete dividing line between the journalist and the reader. “I think that is the big thing that is beginning to change,” he observed.

Using the example of the death of Ian Tomlinson in the G20 protests in London on April 1, the Guardian, said Rusbridger, has managed to “move away from this false dichotomy in which its newspaper versus readers or bloggers - It’s us and them”.

“Looking at any picture of the demonstrations and the number of cameras it shouldn’t have come as any surprise to the police that everything they did was being monitored. All of those people in the crowd are “committing acts of journalism”.

“It feels to me as though the IPPC and the Police haven’t yet come to terms with this digital world and the speed of communication and the ability of thousands of people in a crowd to take part in reporting and analysis.”

Alan Rusbridger went on to admit that “even a well resourced media organisation can’t rival the power of reporting and commentary of the web”.

He revealed that the Guardian technology team has 438,000 people following it on Twitter and that it meant “about half a dozen people have more people following them than the entire circulation of the Guardian”.

“These are formidable figures in terms of getting stories, publishing them quickly and also as a marketing tool.”

Speaking of the financial constraints now affecting newspapers, Alan Rusbridger observed that “there is a huge external resource which is going to be managed by a smaller internal resource. That is just the fate of news organisations. Happily this coincides with a time when news organisations are not going to have the resources they had.

“By using all of the brilliant tools and technologies that now exist, it is possible that we are not going into an obituary for journalism, we are going to be celebrating something like a golden age for journalism."

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