For most of my working life I was a journalist – mainly on the Guardian, which I edited for 20 years from 1995-2015. I am now Principal of Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford.
After reading English at Cambridge I started in journalism, progressing from local papers to a job as a reporter on the Guardian in 1979. Over eight years I reported, wrote a daily diary column and features before leaving to become the Observer’s TV critic in succession to Clive James and Julian Barnes.
In 1987 I moved to Washington to become the US editor for the (now defunct) London Daily News. I the returned to the Guardian, launching its Weekend magazine and G2 section before becoming deputy editor then editor.
The paper I inherited was print on paper. By the time I left in 2015 we continued to print a paper (in a different format) but had transitioned the Guardian into being a 24/7 digital news operation based in London, US and Australia. We overtook the New York Times to become the largest serious English language newspaper digital operation in the world.
The journalism won multiple awards, including, in 2014, and Emmy and the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The economic model of news was – almost universally – challenging. By the time I left the Guardian we were heading for £100m a year in digital revenues and a £1bn endowment in the Scott Trust, which owns the paper. But – famously – the digital west coast giants have since moved aggressively to hoover up the majority of advertising money.
The last five years of editing saw the Guardian breaking many stories that were followed up globally, including the Wikileaks diplomatic cables revelations; the phone-hacking story which saw News International journalists jailed; disclosures about illegal torture and rendition; tax avoidance; toxic-dumping by Trafigura; and, in 2013, the Edward Snowden disclosures about mass surveillance.
Three of these stories – Wikileaks, phone hacking and Snowden – would later become films made, or currently in the pipeline, by Stephen Spielberg, George Clooney and Oliver Stone.