Firstly, there’s the joy in seeing that The Guardian does things differently. The traditional split in a newspaper business is that the publisher (for Americans, managing director for Brits, largely enough) deals with money. The editor deals with content. One substantial reason for this is so that those providing the money – advertisers for example – don’t gain detailed control over the content.
Yes, obviously, they should have control over whether they advertise or not and that will depend upon who the content attracts and all that. And yes, if a major advertisers gets pissed off at being attacked they might leave and so on. But having the person who decides the content different from the person who sells the advertising does aid in splitting the two things.
The chief executive, an American-born neuroscientist who worked her way up in scientific publishing before making an unusual switch to news, has not only had to get to grips with Fleet Street but also the Guardian’s unique characteristics as the only left-leaning broadsheet.
The editor-in-chief is elected by a vote of journalists and has historically had authority over business as well as editorial decisions.
They have to do it differently, obviously.
However, there’s so much fun in the economic worldview being put forward by the true believers:
Following his departure in 2015 cash outflows topped £72m and prompted the Scott Trust to back a three-year turnaround plan under Ms Viner and Ms Thomas’s predecessor as chief executive, David Pemsel. Ms Viner’s supporters point out that she jointly led an effort that brought the Guardian back from the brink of a financial crisis.
OK, cool. So, past changes in behaviour made things better. So, what’s the immediate demand?
The Guardian has reported that combination of cost cuts and stable revenues meant that overall cash outflow last year was “only” £16m. That compares with £29m in the year before the pandemic. With the support of the returns from the Scott Trust’s endowment, the Guardian believes it can afford negative cash flow of up to £30m annually.
Last year’s performance has prompted calls from the newsroom, led by Ms Viner, and National Union of Journalists representatives for renewed investment. Ms Thomas, who joined the Guardian two weeks before the first lockdown from a career in scientific publishing, is understood to have resisted such demands, arguing that greater financial discipline is required to deliver stability.
We must have an immediate reversal of those changes that made things better.
It’s just so Guardian, isn’t it?