Josna Rege

361. The Guardian

In Britain, history, Media, Stories on April 9, 2016 at 9:51 am

Blogging from A to Z
  Theme: Bringing Me Joy

GBack then it was the left-leaning, or at least staunchly social democratic Manchester Guardian, and it was my Uncle Ted’s daily newspaper. (Later he switched to the much more conservative Daily Telegraph, but I think it was for its legendarily difficult crossword rather than its politics.)

Founded in 1821, the Manchester Guardian has a noble history. Its initial prospectus promised:

It will zealously enforce the principles of civil and religious Liberty, it will warmly advocate the cause of Reform; it will endeavour to assist in the diffusion of just principles of Political Economy.  

UnknownThe Guardian has stayed true to these principles throughout its nearly-two hundred year run, its editorial policy always on the right side of history—from my perspective, of course.

Back in the 1980s, when we were living on the farm in Winchendon, and in danger of being cut off from cosmopolitan currents, my mother bought me a subscription to the Manchester Guardian Weekly, which became my lifeline to the world outside. It was a selection of the best articles from The Guardian, Le Monde, and The Washington Post, including, crucially, the Guardian crossword (which, in truth, was sometimes the only thing I found time to tackle).

The late, great Araucaria's first Guardian crossword

The late, great Araucaria’s first Guardian crossword

Whenever I go to England, for however short a stay, I buy the print edition of the Guardian every day, trying to re-acquaint myself with the reigning Zeitgeist. Over the years I’ve saved cuttings (I know, I know, Hoarder Alert) from some of the most memorable headlines of the times, of massive demonstrations in Trafalgar Square protesting the September 11, 1973 military coup in Chile, Margaret Thatcher’s handling of the 1984-85 miners’ strike, race riots in the 1980s, cuts to the National Health Service, Booker Prize-winning writers, the Notting Hill Carnival.


With the advent of the Internet, the Guardian took the lead among British newspapers in its online presence, starting with the Guardian Unlimited and now with the indispensable The Guardian dot com. This presence has helped it more or less sustain itself while print journalism has been facing formidable challenges. The Guardian made headlines itself in 2011 when it courageously broke and covered the Wikileaks story, and stood up to state ire. I regularly post links to its online book reviews for my students, and, perhaps perversely, am following the 2016 U.S. elections on their site, even though, disappointingly, they share some of the bias of the U.S. mainstream media in their coverage of the Democratic race.

imagesOne of The Guardian’s most important recent online initiatives has been The Counted. Because, incredibly, the United States does not keep national records of police killings of civilians, the Guardian took it upon itself to do so by establishing a searchable database that it has called The Counted. People can notify them of a killing and they will investigate and verify it. If it holds up, they will add it to their count. It can be broken down by race and ethnicity, gender, age, state, and whether the victim was armed or unarmed. The tally is a heartbreaking 281 people killed by the police in the United States in 2016 to date.

Despite its best efforts, The Guardian is struggling financially. Another highly reputable newspaper, The Independent, had to suspend its print publication earlier this year, and it is heartbreaking for me to contemplate the possibility of The Guardian going the same way. So much so that I am about to become a Guardian Supporter, in order to protect its fearless tradition of independent journalism. I feel a stronger allegiance to the Guardian than I do to, say, National Public Radio, which has become stodgier and more centrist over the years, catering openly to the wealthy. Without it, both in its online incarnation and its print editions, my life would be poorer and more isolated. The Guardian brings me joy.

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  1. My favourite newspaper since my student days. We still religiously buy the print edition every Saturday, still enjoying it the following Saturday morning when it’s time to buy the next one. And though I no longer commit to the cryptic crossword (sheer laziness, I’m afraid) I still do the quick ones in the review section and in the magazine.

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