A week at The Guardian: How is the newsroom run?

The first light of the morning were breaking the coldness of the London streets and it was reflected all-glass building. 

The Guardian” was written with big black letters at the entrance.

The font size was in front of me with huge letters that I was used to on the screen of the computer. I was there for the “Knowledge Exchange Programme” supported by SIDA and organised in partnership with NewsLabTurkey and The Guardian Foundation. 

I attended this week-long programme as a representative of Botan International, the first and only Kurdish media education organisation, and Botan Times, the most widely read Kurdish news portal based in Turkey. 

I received training in the nine categories I chose. Half of the training categories I carefully selected were subjects that nourished my journalistic side and half were my managerial side. Directly related to journalism, I participated in discussions on Human Rights Journalism, Cultural Journalism, Slow Journalism , Interview Techniques. Regarding media management, I participated in sessions on Workshop Planning and Management, Newsroom Management, Business Models for Independent Media and Readership Revenue Strategies.

Of course,I will not mention every categories but in this article, I will try to share my observations about how the newsroom is run at The Guardian. If you are ready, let’s take a look at a day of The Guardian together. 

Visiting Journalists from Turkey, seen in the Guardian offices after their week long visit. The Guardian Foundation invites a group of journalists to the Guardian’s London office each year and participate in workshops with Guardian staff. 7 June 2024

How does running work in The Guardian?

The first thing that caught my attention was that there was a library silence in all departments, including the technical support floor and the newsroom, where dozens of people worked. If there was a need to talk about something, they would enter the isolated glass rooms on each floor, have planned conversations at planned times and then return to their desks.

One of my other observations was that telephone and video interviews were being conducted in the small glass booth that I hadn’t witnessed before. No one tried to explain the importance of the use of time to each other, or to enable the workplace, and this continued as a necessary routine. 

In this part of my writing, I must confess that I cannot be impartial because I have a background with The Guardian as fixer and contributor.  So I will try to hide my emotional closeness and share my observations. 

 08:00:Making list 

Aaron Sharp, one of the news desk editors, patiently and kindly explained about the management of a large news centre and I had the chance to see at the same time. So I will continue to have your eyes on, for a little while longer. 

Editors of all sections (Culture, Health, Policy, Agenda etc.) make a news list at 08:00. Section editors have a meeting with other editors and reporters in the department to create this list, and make phone calls to those who are out. They list potential news topics. They compile news proposals written by reporters outside the office. 

Two sensitivities come into play for the topics to be included in the news list. Firstly, it must be a topic that is not covered by other media organisations in their category, or the same topic must be covered from a different perspective. For example, the politics editor analyses the politics sections of other media and pays attention to originality. 

Secondly, in order to stand out among the other sections of The Guardian, they focus on very original and page-valuable topics.

09:00: Meeting with the editor-in-chief 

According to Aaron, “Joining this meeting with a good list is what everyone wants most!” The editor-in-chief arrives having read all the publications of all the sections. Since each section’s editors are busy with its own section’s publications, the editor-in-chief explains the general direction of the site. “He doesn’t talk about simple editorial mistakes, headlines or typings. There are editors whose job it is. editor-in-chief gives the overall picture.” 

Each section editor comes with their news list. editor-in-chief makes suggestions or just listens. Sometimes other editors also give suggestions. editor-in-chief takes notes and the meeting is over very quickly. Everyone starts to prepare what is on their list.

10:00: Morning conference

It’s a culture unique to The Guardian. It’s a meeting that everyone attends not just the section editors. On the day I attended, the meeting was chaired by the deputy editor-in-chief. Again, the deputy editor-in-chief talks about the general situation of the website, the readings and the highlights. The participants discuss how to approach the issues on the agenda. The discussion is actually a brainstorming session in which one person speaks in deep silence while the others wait their turn and present their ideas. Since I was asked not to give details of the conference, I will not mention any of the topics discussed.

12:00: Mid-day meeting

Section editors also attend this meeting. The editors report to the editor-in-chief on the situation of the news items that were decided in the morning, indeed the editors tell her/him what stage the news items are at. 

If there is any breaking news between the two meetings, the news about this development is published as soon as the live desk confirms it (within 20 minutes on average). If the breaking news is very important, the editor of the relevant category decides what to do about it. If necessary, the work decided in the morning is postponed or even cancelled.

16:45: Evening Meeting

Section editors meet again with the editor-in-chief. They discuss the final touches to the issues they have. The topics to be delivered to the evening editors who will arrive at 18:00 are determined.

So can what is applicable to the UK also be applicable here?

Each editor said the following sentence in some part of their speech at the meeting:  

“I will tell you how we do this job and you can decide how to implement it.” I can share a similar note for this part of this writing. I am sharing what I see and understand, you decide how to evaluate it.

We tried to implement methods of generating revenue from readers for Botan Times. We had 45 subscribers in one month through Google Reader Revenue Manager.

In fact, I had little new information to learn, but a lot of barriers to break down. We paid 1300 copyrights for articles in one year, we paid more than one million TL with a lot of pride. But we were hesitant to ask for support from our readers to whom the content was open. The journalism part of Kurdish journalism also means the existence of the Kurdish and we did not seem right to charge for the articles read by the already small number of Kurdish readers. There is an understandable reason for this. According to TÜİK data, 1866 newspapers and 2182 magazines are published in Turkey. There is no Kurdish news magazine or Kurdish daily among them.Only Xwebûn, a weekly newspaper, is on the list. According to RTÜK, 477 TV channels broadcast in the country. The only national channel with a news programme is the state TRT Kurdî.

We tried The Guardian’s strategy of keeping all content open to the reader and openly sharing its situation with the reader for Kurdish readers and asked for their support. We state openly that it was too risky to proceed with funds.  We could not find a funder who supported us now, and we need their support for copyrights. We explained in Kurdish, Turkish and English why it is important to compensate Kurdish intellectuals, writers and journalists for their labour and why we are asking for their support. It is difficult to make a prediction in the first month, but it is clear that this positive move has had a positive return. 

When Murat Bayram talks about the Kurdish media and the work of Botan International at the Guardian Foundation’s annual programme at University College London (UCL).
Photo: Alecsandra Dragoi / The Guardiane Foundation

At the centre of The Guardian, Murat Bayram answers questions from editors and participants.
Photo: Linda Nylind / The Guardian

This writing was prepared as an output of The Guardian training that we attended in June 2024 at the invitation of The Guardian Foundation and NewsLabTurkey.

Read in Kurdish

This article was published in NewsLabTurkey website and translated by Betül Demir.

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