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December 19, 2014

Journalists to vote on Guardian editorship, but Scott Trust ‘retains right to choose candidate irrespective of result’

By William Turvill

Guardian journalists will have a vote on who should replace Alan Rusbridger as editor-in-chief, but the Scott Trust “retains the right to choose a candidate irrespective of the result”.

The title today reports that the process will include an “indicative ballot which would guarantee the winner a place on the shortlist for the job”.

But in an interview with The Guardian, chair of the Scott Trust – which owns the title – Liz Forgan said: “The views of the staff are very important, but the duty of the trust is to think about The Guardian in perpetuity and that is to look beyond the interests of the current generation of journalists …

"Global stakeholders include readers from all over the world who have come to look to The Guardian for their understanding of the world, which is why it’s so important to open up this process.”

She said that the role will be openly advertised for the first time and The Guardian reports that a “firm of headhunters will sift through the initial applications”.

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The paper reports: “A shortlisting committee of four members of the Scott Trust will then select up to five candidates. Those candidates can either choose to be put forward on the ballot to be run by the National Union of Journalists, or to remain anonymous.

“The job will be advertised by the end of the year with the closing date for applications likely to be the start of February. The staff ballot is expected to take three weeks, with shortlisted applicants interviewed by the Scott Trust by the end of February or in early March. The trust aims to make its final decision by the end of March.”

Forgan is quoted as saying she is “ambivalent” about a staff ballot and that it is a “good way of establishing the level of support but it’s also very divisive in a newsroom which is actually still supposed to be producing a newspaper”.

She described The Guardian as “no longer a little wonderful local newspaper but a global digital enterprise with a footprint across the world”.

The Guardian reports that the views of the Guardian Media Group board, the commercial body behind the papers, and group chief executive Andrew Miller will also “only be indicative”.

Forgan said it would be “absolutely not right” for the managing director to be involved in the process, citing “constitutional delicacies”.

Rusbridger, who is to replace Forgan in the summer, will also be “consulted”.

Forgan said:  “The editor needs to be somebody who can demonstrate that in their conduct and demeanour they are mature people so for the internal candidates who will be caught up in office politics, the way they handle themselves in that will be a consideration.

“We want to make sure we don’t lose really good Guardian people … because something in the process has made their job impossible.”

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