Paper seeks editor Britain's German Guardian

The Guardian, one of the British establishment's most respected newspapers and publisher of the secret NSA files, is looking for a new editor. Would it dare appoint a German?
The Guardian co-published the leaked National Security Agency files in 2013.

Despite the fact that three out of the four internal candidates shortlisted to be the next editor-in-chief at Britain’s widely respected Guardian newspaper are women, it is not the victory for equality that stands out. The fourth name is the surprise – Wolfgang Blau is German.

The paper’s current director of digital strategy is a native of Stuttgart in southern Germany, and a former editor of the online version of one of Germany’s most prestigious newspapers, Die Zeit.

His appointment to succeed long-time incumbent Alan Rusbridger would be a meteoric career leap, and also mark the first time the Guardian has appointed a non-British editor.

The 47-year-old, who worked at Zeit Online until early 2013 and was named editor-in-chief of the year by Medium Magazine, is conscious of his odds. But his chances of heading the left-leaning London daily, which made worldwide headlines in 2013 with its expose of National Security Agency spy files, may be bolstered by the paper’s appointment rules.

Employees will be balloted on which of the four internal candidates should be guaranteed a place on the final interview shortlist, which will also include external candidates. The Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian Media Group, will have the final word on who succeeds Mr. Rusbridger, who is leaving to become the trust's chairman.

The 47-year-old, who worked at Zeit Online until early 2013, is conscious of his odds.

The internal competition comes in the form of three other journalists: Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and member of the Scott Trust board; Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of theguardian.com; and Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of the paper’s U.S. edition.

All four have already presented their concepts for the future of the Guardian in personal manifestos. Mr. Blau made it clear that he believes the future is in weekly, and not daily, print newspapers. The Guardian’s three weekly publications – two weekend papers and a weekly edition – should have “a long and very successful future,” he said.

Wolfgang Blau is a former editor of the online version of Germany's leading Die Zeit newspaper.

 

But the outlook for the Monday to Friday newspaper was, in his mind, “less clear.” In the long term, he sees only the weekly print editions as viable.

The Guardian, which has been losing money for years, is notable for making the entire text of the printed newspaper available for free online. The daily printed edition has seen its circulation drop from 380,000 in 2002 to 180,000 today.

The Guardian’s staff have until March 4 to cast a vote in favor of one of the four internal candidates. No details have been released about external candidates, but Mr. Blau will no doubt take heart from the fact Mr. Rusbridger was appointed after a favorable staff ballot in 1995.

Video: Wolfgang Blau on the future of digital media.

 

The author is a Handelsblatt correspondent in London. To contact the author: [email protected]