Alan Rusbridger, best known in the U.S. for shepherding the Guardian newspaper through its Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Edward Snowden's leaks of classified material, will step down as editor in chief of the British newspaper next summer. He said today he will become the chairman of the Scott Trust, which runs the Guardian.
In an email to staff, he wrote: "In February I'll have been editor for 20 years. It's been quite an extraordinary period in the life of the Guardian. In February 1995 newspaper websites were, if they existed at all, exotic things: we were still four years off launching Guardian Unlimited. Since 1999 we've grown to overtake all others to become the most-read serious English language digital newspaper in the world."
The newspaper, in a story about the departure, said:
"During his time at the Guardian, the paper and its editor have received awards for stories from Jonathan Aitken's libel case to Wikileaks and phone hacking. Earlier this year, the Guardian was awarded the highest accolade in US journalism, winning the Pulitzer Prize for public service for its articles on the National Security Agency's surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden. It was also named Newspaper of the Year at the UK Press Awards for its reporting on government surveillance."
The Guardian said the process by which a successor will be picked has yet to be announced.
The Scott Trust, where Rusbridger will succeed the current chair, Liz Forgan, was set up in 1936 to ensure the Guardian's future.
The Guardian's decision to publish Snowden's leaks angered the British government, which was embarrassed by some of the revelations in the documents about the extent of its spying activities. Britain does not have an equivalent of the First Amendment, and Rusbridger destroyed the hard drives containing information Snowden provided rather than hand them over to a court. The drives' destruction was overseen by U.K. authorities.
"[I] t was certainly one of the most bizarre experiences in my journalistic career to have editorial people in a basement with power drills, being looked on by men from spying agencies involved in smashing up computers," Rusbridger told NPR at the time. "That's not something I thought I would encounter in my journalistic career."