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It was just a few decades ago that The Guardian was a respected, ambitious – yet modestly influential newspaper in Manchester, England. Under Alan Rusbridger, its editor for the past 20 years, its daily circulation has remained respectable – yet modest, at about 200,000. But with more than seven million people visiting its website every day, The Guardian has become a journalistic powerhouse with global reach and influence.
It’s broken some of the biggest news stories of recent years: Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Agency’s surveillance and domestic spying programs, the British phone-hacking scandal. It has also partnered with WikiLeaks to release secret American diplomatic cables. In the process, it’s won many of the world’s biggest journalistic awards, run afoul of governments and infuriated some of its rivals in Britain’s notoriously cutthroat newspaper industry. For millions, it is now the website of record, and may represent the future of the news business.
Having succeeded in all of that Rusbridger is stepping down as editor this summer and taking up a new position as Principal of Lady Margaret Hall at the University of Oxford. He will also become chair of the Scott Trust, which owns and funds The Guardian, ensuring its editorial independence. But if you think Rusbridger is coasting towards the end of his tenure, you’d be wrong. He has dedicated his last few months to one of the paper’s most ambitious campaigns yet, reinvigorating coverage of what he calls the Biggest Story in the World – climate change. In a project called “Keep It In The Ground” – the “It” being fossil fuels – Rusbridger and his team are not only challenging readers to think and act to combat global warming, they are also challenging two of the world’s biggest charities to set an example by divesting their holdings in fossil fuel companies.