The Guardian re-invented itself today. Well, it changed its print format to tabloid and gave itself an online face-lift involving brightly-coloured menu and a new logo. Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief has an editorial announcing and explaining the changes which is not only embarrassingly self-aggrandising but also unintentionally revealing. She says:
We have grounded our new editions in the qualities readers value most in Guardian journalism: clarity, in a world where facts should be sacred but are too often overlooked; imagination, in an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives to the way things are….We have thought carefully about how our use of typography, colour and images can support and enhance Guardian journalism.
Indeed, colour and typography are the first things we look for in good journalism. But she continues:
The masthead has a renewed strength and confidence to represent the Guardian’s place and mission in these challenging times. Guardian journalism itself will remain what it has always been: thoughtful, progressive, fiercely independent and challenging; and also witty, stylish and fun
If this sounds a little hysterical and over-compenatory it’s probably because it is. The facelift is a misdirected response to the Guardian’s fast-shrinking readership and even faster-shrinking credibility as a news source. In a neoliberal world where ‘reality’ is devolving into a series of fact-free assertions, and packaging replaces content, then maybe a new font can be seen as a solution to a serious existential problem. But all this re-launch really does is illustrate the chasm that currently separates the Guardian from its readership and indeed the media class in general from – everyone else.
The fact Viner believes “renewed confidence” can be asserted by a new masthead is no more bizarre than her claim the Guardian’s copy remains “thoughtful, progressive, fiercely independent and challenging.” It all displays the same disconnect from veridical reality that brought them to this crisis in the first place.
Let’s remind Katharine and her team that people are not deserting the Guardian because the print edition is too big or because the hyperlinks weren’t colourful enough. They are quitting in droves because the newspaper no longer seems to respect the basic tenets of journalism. They are sickened by the too-obvious adherence to an agenda that is frankly imperialist and by the consistent suppression of facts and opinions that run counter to that agenda. They are shocked and appalled by the blatant association with propagandist outlets which the Guardian reveals through its ‘New East Network’ section, which – shockingly – includes the CIA-founded Radio Free Europe.
The fact the Guardian is re-publishing articles from RFE and Interpreter Magazine, the fact it routinely endorses and publicises the opinions of a discredited war criminal such as Tony Blair, the fact it is shrinking its (ironically named?) “Comment is Free” section, censoring comment and banning commenters, the fact it publishes poorly-researched and dishonest hit pieces about serious journalists and denies them a platform to reply – these are the reasons it is losing relevance and traction.
Until it addresses these issues it will continue to haemorrhage readers and income, even in its new clothes.