There’s a good chance the Guardian’s next editor-in-chief will be a woman

Whose office?
Whose office?
Image: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett
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If the Guardian doesn’t select a woman as its next editor in chief, it won’t be because of a shortage of female applicants.

Three of the newspaper’s four internal candidates to replace outgoing editor Alan Rusbridger are women, and they aided—or marred—their chances during a town hall meeting with colleagues at the Guardian’s London headquarters yesterday. A ballot of staff opens today; the winner will get a guaranteed spot on the final shortlist of candidates.

Although the paper could opt for an external pick (external applicants do not have an opportunity to speak to the full staff), the proportion of women in the mix among the internal candidates makes a female editor a real possibility. The Guardian has never had one before. The Financial Times, the Times, and the Telegraph also have never been edited by a woman; nor have the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, or the Los Angeles Times.

Ahead of the meeting, the four internal candidates staked out their positions in short essays, available online—not just to Guardian staffers but to anyone curious enough to look. After this crucible of public exposure and employee scrutiny, the Scott Trust, which owns the newspaper, will make its selection—and will have to consider the person who most impresses the staff. Like candidates for any job, each tries to stand out.

Katharine Viner launched the Guardian’s Australian entity, before taking up her current role as editor of Guardian US. She’s had a lot of different roles since joining in 1997, at the age of 26. In her essay, Viner’s vision is divided into thirteen subheadings, including “report, report, report” and “be instinctively digital.”

Janine Gibson, meanwhile, editor-in-chief of and a deputy editor of the Guardian, launched Guardian US in 2011. She strikes a strident tone in an essay full or short punchy sentences, like: “Grow where others retreat.” She emphasizes the newspaper’s boldness and its long heritage, noting in her opening sentence that the Guardian was founded in the aftermath of a massacre at a public meeting.

“We need to acknowledge fully that we are a private not-for-profit organisation that reinvests its revenues in building and sustaining its journalism,” writes Emily Bell, an Observer and Guardian staffer from 1990 to 2010. She left the paper to found the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University’s journalism school in New York, and is a non-executive director of the Scott Trust.

Wolfgang Blau joined the Guardian as director of digital strategy in 2013. He says that “the notion of ‘print versus online’ is not a helpful framework,” and predicts that both print and online journalism will continue to develop in tandem. Blau also notes in his essay that he is “not a woman,” but says that if he gets the job he will do make sure women succeed at the Guardian, including in senior management.

If a woman is chosen, the Guardian will follow close on the heels of The Economist, which recently appointed its first female editor in chief—Zanny Minton Beddoes—following a process in which 13 candidates faced inscrutable interviewers, and went out for dinner in London’s Chinatown after their ordeal.