On its own media website, the Guardian announced Alan Rusbridger is to stand down as editor-in-chief after 20 years, “leaving the news organisation to become chair of its ultimate owner, the Scott Trust”. So the truth is he is going nowhere.
Rusbridger, who is vacating the editor’s office after an award-winning year, will still be overseeing strategy, leading the helter-skelter charge to being a web-based international news organisation and pursuing the goal of the media group being the torchbearer of liberalism, just doing it from another chair with a different title.
During my time at the Guardian and the Observer he was always a light touch editor, rarely overseeing the paper being put to bed, happy to rely on the talented staff he had chosen to do the daily grind, and more concerned with the bigger picture and the big blockbusters.
He will go down as one of the great editors for his vision, support of his staff and the change he has overseen, but also for the depth and breadth of the stories the Guardian broke, although whether his skills will be applauded by the former staff at the News of the World and those on trial is doubtful.
Anyone who takes over from a successful editor faces a tough time, being continually compared with his or her predecessor, but in this case the former boss is still the ultimate boss and running the board. In football terms, think Moyes/Ferguson at Manchester United – and we know how that went.
Taking over may be somewhat of a poisoned chalice but there will be quite a few wanting to take a sip. On announcing his departure, Rusbridger gave more than a hint that his successor will come from within, and from those who joined him on the digital challenge to change from a newspaper into a "global content provider".
In most scenarios the deputy-in-chief, in this case Paul Johnson, is in with a shout. Although my admiration for Johnson is unbound, he will not get the job and I am pretty sure he will not want it.
Good money will be placed on Ian Katz, the former deputy, as apposed to deputy-in-chief, and going away with the plan to come back can be a winning tactic. But Katz, presently editor of Newsnight, is not pulling up any trees, has his detractors and blotted his copybook with a tweet calling the Labour MP Rachel Reeves “boring snoring”. That would not be a problem were it not for the second part of his tweet, which read: “telly much netter (sic) than snoooooozepapers innit.” Calling an MP boring is one thing, but deriding his former colleagues is another.
Kath Viner, another long term deputy who saw through the move into Australia and is now editor of the Guardian US, could be in with a shout, but my money is on Janine Gibson, who was brought back from the US after the Snowden triumph to become editor-in-chief of theguardian.com.
She has been applauded by Rusbridger for pioneering “award-winning, agenda-setting digital journalism” – exactly what he wants from the Guardian.
A thought for those at the Observer. No one in the small editorial staff will have a sniff at the job and with Rusbridger taking over the chair at the Scott Trust, the future of the title may be in doubt in the quest to make the Guardian a single seven-day brand.
Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government