The revolution acknowledged

Jeff Jarvis blogged Alan Rusbridger’s speech to the assembled staffs of the Guardian and Observer (for which I write). Here’s a snippet of Jeff’s account:

Yesterday, Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, told the staff of his newspaper that now “all journalists work for the digital platform” and that they should regard “its demands as preeminent.”

This came in each of three all-hands meetings with the editorial and business staff held at a theater 15 minutes from the paper’s offices, the first such meetings since the Guardian went through its last metamorphosis to its medium-sized Berliner format. (I happened to be consulting at the paper yesterday and I went along for the ride. Rusbridger gave me permission to blog the company event.)

So that was the line that struck me: preeminent. I suspect it was the line that resonated with staff members a few hours later. Rusbridger said that some would find the content of yesterday’s meetings no-big-deal and others would find unease. But the message was clear, although it was shoehorned into much else in the presentation; you had to listen to hear it. He also said that the paper will serve the public 24/7; it does not yet do that. So the Guardian, he said, will be a 24-hour, web-first newspaper. To do that, the paper’s management needs — he called it the F word — flexibility. And that means that jobs will change. It’s all in a parcel…

The interesting thing about the Guardian is that it’s owned by a Trust rather than being a commercial company. Some people mistakenly think that this ownership structure makes the paper more cosy and resistant to change than a more straightforwardly commercial outfit. In fact the opposite it true: the Guardian has moved faster and more aggressive to embrace change than any other British publication.

Remember old Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. We do.