Alan Rusbridger – The Matrix Database

Alan Rusbridger, his wife, Lindsay, and daughter, Bella, all have contributor profiles on the Guardian website – meritocracy in action? (image courtesy of Anorak)

The Matrix Project is an effort to document personal factors that undermine powerful journalists’ claims of objectivity and impartiality. Are factors such as an elite education, establishment connections, personal wealth and interests in rival fields compatible with journalistic integrity? 

This page looks at former Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger . For more information on the database click here.

Education

Learn about the significance of a private/Oxbridge education here

Alan Rusbridger attended independent fee-paying schools including Cranleigh School (source)

Alan Rusbridger studied English Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge (source)

Revolving Door

Learn about the significance of the Revolving Door here

Alan Rusbridger has no significant experience in rival fields such as politics or business.

“Establishment” Connections

Learn about the significance of Establishment Connections here

Primary

Alan Rusbridger’s father, H. G. Rusbridger, was Deputy Director of Education for the British colonial administration in Zambia (source)

Rusbridger is married to Lindsay Mackie, a reporter for the Guardian turned freelance journalist and think-tank contributor (source)

Rusbridger’s father-in-law was George Mackie, Lord Mackie of Benshie, a Liberal Democrat peer, owner of multiple hotels and farms, and the former Liberal MP for Caithness and Sutherland (source)

David Leigh, who retired as the Guardian’s investigations editor in 2013, is Rusbridger’s brother-in-law (source)

Alan Rusbridger’s daughter, Isabella, is also a journalist. Private Eye noted that “Isabella Mackie, a recent graduate, had the grace to use her mother’s surname when taking a job on the Guardian’s website to disguise the fact that she is the daughter of the paper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger.” (source)

Alan Rusbridger’s son-in-law is Radio 1 DJ Greg James (source)

Secondary

None

Salary/Indications of Wealth

Learn about the significance of journalists with an unusual level of wealth here

This 2012 Guardian article provides an indication of Rusbridger’s earning power (emphasis ours):

Alan Rusbridger emailed staff at the newspaper to say that his salary in the upcoming 2012-13 financial year will be £395,010, compared with £438,900 in the current financial year.

“His annual pension contribution will be reduced to £75,000, and the total reduction in his salary and pension package will amount to 19% in the next year starting in April.”

As a point of reference, the Office for National Statistics list the average UK salary for 2021 as £26,193

Complaints / apologies / controversies

Learn about the significance of complaints/apologies here

Irish Commission – In 2021 Rusbridger was forced to resign from a commission exploring the future of the media in Ireland after revelations that the Guardian’s former media editor, Roy Greenslade, was supportive of the IRA (source)

Sexual Assault at LMH – The Daily Mail and other outlets reported that Oxford college Lady Margaret Hall ‘imposed a gagging order on woman who claimed she was raped’. Rusbridger was the principal of the college at the time. The student in question claimed that Rusbridger tried “desperately to convince her not to complain”. Oxford ultimately agreed to pay damages and meet the woman’s legal costs (source)

Publishing of Wikileaks material – While editor of the Guardian, Rusbridger was heavily involved in publishing/protecting revelations from US whistleblower Edward Snowden. Rusbridger and the Guardian faced considerable flak from the US and UK governments for doing so.

in Their own words

“The need for an institution, an estate, a profession, a trade – we’ll probably never quite agree what to call it – that exists independently of the other main centres of power in society.”

Alan Rusbridger on the importance of journalism

“A free press is not there for the benefit of a group called journalists. It’s primarily there for the benefit of ordinary citizens. The freedoms belong to them – freely to receive reliable and timely information about their society.”

Alan Rusbridger

Summary

Alan Rusbridger is from a British colonial family, was educated at fee-paying schools then Oxford, and has countless nepotistic connections in the world of journalism (including employing his own daughter at the Guardian). In a single year at the Guardian, Rusbridger earned ten times in excess of the average UK salary.

Impartial? Independent? Holding the powerful to account?

Learn more about the Matrix Project here.

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