Alan Rusbridger

Former Editor-In-Chief of The Guardian
Pulitzer-winning investigative editor
Musical escapist



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Biography

Alan Rusbridger is a prime mover in the fast-changing digital revolution from both the news and news management perspectives. As Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian for two decades, he oversaw seminal investigative reporting into the era's most important government and private sector surveillance leaks and hacks as well as facilitated the newspaper's dramatic growth from a modest U.K. daily to the key international player in online media with offices now in the US and Australia. Beyond the computer screen, Rusbridger followed his personal passions to make meaningful contributions to the cause of environmental activism, and modeled for broad audiences the value and benefits of making time for creative expression.

The Guardian is owned by the Scott Trust under a unique proprietorship structure; it ensures that the paper serves the public with independence from corporate and government interests. As its standard-bearer, Rusbridger seized such journalistic lightning rods as WikiLeaks; Rupert Murdoch's News of the World phone-hacking scandal; and Edward Snowden's NSA surveillance revelations, which garnered a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service (and landed Rusbridger a cameo in the Oliver Stone film). During this time, The Guardian was awarded the prestigious 'Newspaper of the Year' five times and Alan was voted as 'Editor of the Year' on three occasions. He also won the “alternative Nobel Prize,” the Right Livlihood Award.

In the midst of constantly breaking news, during his 20 years at the helm, Rusbridger transformed The Guardian from black-and-white print read predominantly by U.K. citizens to a multimedia, online, round-the-clock powerhouse that attracts more than 8 million unique visitors a day. Under his direction, the paper eschewed the paywall, actively engaged its readership in open conversation — and, in 2015, overtook the New York Times as the world's predominant English language source for hard news and considered opinion. Digitally generated revenues for The Guardian amounted to USD100m in 2015 this is an extraordinary achievement and it is a credit to his vision and leadership in the past few years.

Perhaps as difficult as putting out a provocative, exponentially expanding world-class newspaper is managing your own time while doing so. So it is remarkable that during one of his most professionally trying times, the amateur pianist Rusbridger recommitted himself to music and to learning Chopin's incredibly challenging Ballade No. 1. The story of his disciplined, year-long effort is not only a celebration of the enriching qualities of music but an inspiration to those who struggle to carve time for creative expression during days dictated by distractions and deadlines. He published an account of this period — which also included directing the phone-hacking and Wikileaks investigations — in a book called Play it Again, published in the US by FSG.

In his final months as editor-in-chief, Rusbridger self-imposed another deadline to actively address what he felt was a critical global concern —climate change. By launching a groundbreaking informational campaign endorsed by the UN General Secretary, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Prince Charles, and several Nobel prize winners, he engaged more than 400 institutions and 2000 individuals to commit .6 billion to more environmentally responsible investing.

Rusbridger has spoken extensively on digital security and citizens rights; on participatory — "open" — journalism and its ramifications; on climate change and effective engagement of stakeholders; and on the value of music and a personal, creative practice. He's been invited to address many organizations including the Vatican, the European Union, the Oxford Union, judges, media corporations and intelligence agencies, among many others.

Born in Zambia and educated at Cambridge, Rusbridger cut his teeth as a general reporter, then did time as a feature writer, a TV critic and Washington correspondent before he was charged with launching the Guardian "Weekend Magazine." Not long afterwards, he took over the paper's top position.

In addition to leading The Guardian to an Emmy and a Pulitzer Prize, he has been the recipient of the Liberty Human Rights Award, the European Press Prize, the Ortega y Gasset Journalism Award and was the first non-American citizen to win Harvard University's Goldsmith Award for Lifetime Achievement. Among his numerous other honors, Rusbridger has received multiple distinctions and honorary doctorates from universities around the world. He has served as chair of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the Photographers' Gallery in London and has written drama for BBC One.

Rusbridger is Principal of LMH (Lady Margaret Hall), Oxford University, where he blogs about higher education. He was appointed chairman of Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford in April 2016.

In addition to Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible, a book based on his year learning Ballade No. 1, Rusbridger is also the author of three books for children.

Topics

These are topics that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest the speakers range and interests.

Alan tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Digital journalism

Change and how to manage it

Climate change and the failure of journalism

The importance of culture and “me-time” in a crowded professional life

Edward Snowden and surveillance

Phone-hacking and the necessity of investigative journalism

New ownerships and funding models for the media

  • Play It Again

    An Amateur Against the Impossible



    In 2010, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, set himself an almost impossible task: to learn, in the space of a year, Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 — a piece that inspires dread in many professional pianists. His timing could have been better.

    The next twelve months were to witness the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami, the English riots, and the Guardian’s breaking of both WikiLeaks and the News of the World hacking scandal.

    In the midst of this he carved out twenty minutes’ practice a day — even if that meant practising in a Libyan hotel in the middle of a revolution as well as gaining insights and advice from an array of legendary pianists, theorists, historians and neuroscientists, and even occasionally from secretaries of state.

    But was he able to play the piece in time?

    Vintage (2 Jan. 2014)
    Jonathan Cape; 1st Edition edition (17 Jan. 2013)


    Praise

    “This wonderfully illuminating and entertaining chronicle shows Mr. Rusbridger’s incredible dedication and energy in pursuing the mastery of an iconic Chopin piano work. He is an amateur of the piano in the way that we all should be — he truly loves the music and the instrument. I am inspired by his example.”
    — Emanuel Ax

    “This is not only the diary of a sixteen-month challenge but also an extended essay on beauty, memory, and performance; on time and how we use it; on work and what we do it for. A wonderful book.”
    — Sarah Bakewell, author of How to Live: or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

    “Music is not just for professionals. It is a universal art form — to be treasured, shared, and enjoyed by amateurs. Play It Again is the inspiring story of how an exceptionally busy editor makes the time in his life for the piano — and one piece in particular, the fearsomely difficult Chopin G minor Ballade No. 1. If it encourages others to find the space for music, I, for one, would be extremely happy.”
    — Daniel Barenboim

    “This captivating book masquerades as the journal of a magnificent obsession, but you soon realize that it’s wider-ranging than that, and far more endearing. The story pivots on a feeling that many of us share: a deep and abiding love of music coupled with a daydreamer’s challenge to master one truly great work. With an exegetical discussion of Chopin’s masterpiece, Alan Rusbridger insists we step inside the music with him and consider the score with the probing mind of a dedicated amateur. A remarkable tour de force.”
    —Thad Carhart, author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

    “In this dazzling, dizzying memoir, one of the world’s leading newspaper editors tells of learning to play Chopin’s formidable Ballade No. 1 in G minor against a backdrop of phone hacking and WikiLeaks espionage. The day-to-day counterpoint of piano practice and breaking news is a compositional feat in itself: you have the impression of a wide-awake, fearless mind.”
    — Alex Ross, author of The Rest Is Noise

  • A life in the headlines
  • Journalists are not the only experts in the world
  • Alan Rusbridger appears before the home affairs select committee
  • The future of journalism
  • How Alan Rusbridger learned to play Chopin's first Ballade
  • I would rather destroy the copied files than hand them back to the NSA and GCHQ

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