Great expectations - will Guardian's Berliner relaunch signal move to the centre?

By Dominic Ponsford

The Guardian’s move to mid-size Berliner format on Monday will also
signal a shift to the political middle ground for the historically left
wing paper.

Editor Alan Rusbridger revealed that the £80m relaunch of The
Guardian as the UK’s first full-colour national newspaper will leave
behind its former left-wing political “niche”.

In an exclusive
Press Gazette interview he said: “If I had to choose between occupying
a niche on the left or being nearer the centre, whether you display
that through your news reporting or your comment or both, I’m more
comfortable saying this an upmarket, serious mainstream newspaper.
There’s more potential for growth there than taking comfort in
political positioning.”

The new-look Guardian will also embody
Rusbridger’s belief in “straight” news reporting, as opposed to the
“viewspaper” model pioneered by The Independent in recent years.

He
said: “I continue to believe that news is at the heart of a newspaper.
It seems to me vital that the news is accurate, reliable and
trustworthy and that people don’t feel they are being spun a line.

“Wherever
you are on the political spectrum I think you ought to be able to pick
up The Guardian and say its comment is in the comment section but the
news is by and large fair and accurate.”

The Berliner-size
Guardian comes two years after The Independent brought out a “compact”
version within the M25 and started making inroads to The Guardian’s
readership.

Since then the gap between the two papers has narrowed by 77,000 to within a whisker of 100,000 copies.

Criticising
The Independent, Rusbridger said: “It was apparent on every page one of
The Independent that it was against the Iraq war – that’s a different
thing from being against the Iraq war in your leader column or through
your columnists.”

He added: “At some times over the last couple
of years it has felt like it’s moved way to the left. At various times
in its history The Guardian has been in that position, notably just
before The Independent’s original launch [in 1986] when I think it was
in a kind of political niche.

“That’s a very uncomfortable place to be and I know that because I was on The Guardian at the time.”

Rusbridger
was also critical of the way the Telegraph has changed in the last two
years and its decision to go for “impact not compact”.

He said:
“It feels like a paper that is trying something extremely new and
unfamiliar in broadsheet terms. When it works it works incredibly well,
though I notice that sometimes the amount of space given over to news
feels a bit pinched.”

Rusbridger said the comment section in the
new-look Guardian will cover the whole political spectrum – as
signified by the poaching of Times writer Simon Jenkins, who begins a
twice-weekly column next week.

He said: “I think it’s interesting
that Simon Jenkins wanted to come to us. That wasn’t a very complicated
courtship: we had breakfast, I showed him one of those dummies, his
eyebrows shot up and he said that’s exactly the sort of paper he’d like
to work for.”

Although The Guardian will go on being a “paper of
the left”, Rusbridger said: “If you looked at our pages compared with
most of the other papers there’s a wider variety: you’ve got George
Monbiot through to Max Hastings and now Simon Jenkins.”

He added:
“The leaders will continue to articulate a liberal progressive line in
politics – to that extent the paper’s not going to reposition.

“But
I think it would be a mistake if, when reading the news pages, you said
this is a paper that’s made its mind up politically or is trying to
articulate its politics through its news pages.”

The new-look
Guardian has been “redesigned from scratch” and new additions include a
science page, a daily 12-page sport supplement and a half Berliner-size
stapled G2 section billed as the UK’s first daily news magazine.

The
Guardian’s typeface for stories and headlines throughout has been
changed to a new specially designed font called Guardian Egyptian.

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