The Carey McWilliams Award is given annually to honor a major journalistic contribution to our understanding of politics.
Alan Rusbridger is the former editor-in-chief of the Guardian and now Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. He took up the post of editor-in-chief in 1995, having been a reporter and columnist earlier in his career at the Guardian and for a brief time at other newspapers. Rusbridger stood down as editor-in-chief at the end of May 2015. He is credited with expanding the global reach of the Guardian — two-thirds of the guardian.co.uk’s readers live elsewhere – and for managing the Guardian’s coverage of what until recently were the largest leaks of documents in history: the 2010 Wikileaks stories and the 2013 Snowden files. In Britain the Guardian was, for many months, the only paper to write about WikiLeaks or to use any of the documents they were unearthing. As early as 2007 it reported on documents which revealed that former Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi had been siphoning off hundreds of millions of pounds and hiding them away in foreign bank accounts. This was well before the release of documents by Chelsea Manning. In June 2013, Edward Snowden, an NSA security analyst; Glenn Greenwald, a legal blogger; and Laura Poitras, a filmmaker collaborated to release the National Security Agency files in the Guardian. The stakes were incredibly high. “Anything to do with national security is about as hard as it gets in journalism,” note Rusbridger. “The ease with which the state could attack you is not hard to imagine but we were also aware that if we spilt the wrong secrets, terrorists could get hold of them.” The Guardian won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Snowden documents. In his stewardship of the Guardian through the Wikileaks and Snowden episodes and his farsighted push to move the world’s oldest newspaper into the digital age, Rusbridger has made an enormous contribution to the public’s understanding of state-media relations and political journalism in the digital era.
Rusbridger was born in Lusaka in what is now now Zambia. When he was five, he and his family returned to Britain. He was educated at Lanesborough Prep School, Guildford, where he was also a chorister at Christ Church, and Cranleigh School, a boys’ independent school. At Magdalene College, Cambridge, he read English Literature. Between 2004 and 2013 he was Chair of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. He is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation, an organization which exists to promote international relations. He is visiting Fellow of Huffield College, Oxford, and Visiting Professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London. He is also an amateur pianist. He has written three children’s books, as well as the co-author with Ronan Bennett of a BBC drama, Fields of Gold. Rusbridger received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Lincoln September 2009, from the University of Kingston in January 2010 and from the University of Oslo in September 2014. In 2010 he was chosen to deliver the annual Andrew Olle Media Lecture in Australia.
Special thanks to our committee Steven Livingston, Josh Tucker, and Andrew Chadwick.