High-impact journalism | Introduction from Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief
This year was the most challenging and extraordinary year for news that I can remember, and I’m sure many of you feel the same way.
As you’ll read in this report, our journalists worked tirelessly throughout 2020, from the very start of the year with the Australian bushfires, through the struggle for Hong Kong, the Harvey Weinstein verdict to the death of George Floyd, and the dramatic and divisive US presidential election.
But of course, the Covid-19 pandemic was the dominant global story of the year, transforming so much, from our editorial priorities to how we work. Our coverage sought to foreground the science and the latest data, to hold the government and the scientific establishment to account and expose incompetence, and to bring empathy and humanity to the stories of the victims.
We realised early on that the pandemic had the capacity to change everything about how we live, so Guardian and Observer journalists devoted formidable effort and resources to investigating the social and economic effects of this crisis. We also understood the important role that endeavour, community and charity would play in confronting the emergency, and so sought out hope wherever it could be found.
We expanded our reporting on the climate and environmental crisis, following the movements trying to bring about change, digging deep into the loss of wildlife and investigating the mounting problems of air pollution and microplastics. We also drew the connection between the Covid crisis and the environment, trying to get politicians to understand how the pandemic is the result of our annihilation of nature, year after year.
Our investigations team produced a succession of game-changing revelations about the UK government’s handling of the pandemic, such as the scandalous disregard for life in care homes, and the repeated mishandling of vital protection equipment for healthcare workers.
In the UK, our sensational revelation, in partnership with the Daily Mirror, that the prime minister’s right-hand man, Dominic Cummings, had travelled from London to Durham during lockdown, and then taken a 50-mile trip to Barnard Castle to “test his eyesight”, resulted in a public outcry. Our reporting, like a lot of the best stories, originated with Guardian readers who told us what they had seen.
Our investigations were not limited to the UK. We also revealed further allegations of sexual abuse committed by Donald Trump, and unearthed the disturbing background of his supreme court justice pick, Amy Coney Barrett. We published the Luanda Leaks, showing how Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, made her fortune through exploiting her own country, and revealed Jeff Bezos had his phone hacked by the Saudi crown prince – a truly astonishing exposé.
These kinds of revelations are at the heart of what we do. Without reader support, we would have fewer resources for the time-consuming, painstaking reporting that often takes weeks or months to get to the front page. If you are a Guardian supporter, thank you for helping us to bring these stories to light.
Guardian journalists in the US, UK and around the world have reported with clarity, authority and calm on the Black Lives Matter movement, the debate on monuments to slavery, and the broader social and political questions they raise.
In the US, our election coverage included rigorous analysis of the myriad ways millions of Americans are denied voting rights, extensive reporting on the primary and presidential campaigns, and round-the-clock analysis of the election itself. We spoke to voters in often-overlooked communities to understand who and what was motivating them to vote.
In Australia, our reporters worked over the festive period to provide unrivalled live coverage of the unprecedented bushfires that ravaged the east coast. The team followed this up with The Frontline, an in-depth multimedia investigation into the many ways the climate emergency is already affecting Australia.
Our numbers: +66% in podcast listens, including for Today in Focus, Football Weekly and Full Story **
Our multimedia journalism continues to go from strength to strength. Today in Focus, presented by Anushka Asthana, took home the best current affairs podcast prize at this year’s British Podcast Awards. And we had an incredible 12 months in video (including our standout series on the US election, Anywhere but Washington, and Anywhere but Westminster, covering stories of altruism and community during lockdown) – reaching 3.5 million subscribers across our YouTube network.
While these are challenging times for media organisations for a number of reasons, financial support for the Guardian from digital readers in every corner of the world has grown as readers seek out expert journalism and analysis they can trust.
The Guardian and the Observer have a history of powerful, high-impact journalism that is read by millions of people worldwide. We now receive support from readers in more than 180 countries, helping us to safeguard the Guardian’s independent journalism.
The pandemic and its effects have made life much harder for Guardian readers and supporters around the world. This year, even more than in the past, we are extremely grateful for the financial support readers give to help safeguard our independent journalism.
Change and adaptation | Introduction from Annette Thomas, chief executive officer
I joined the Guardian in March 2020, a few weeks before the first lockdown in the UK. At that point I could never have imagined just how much our business would need to change and adapt in what has been an extraordinary year.
My priorities as chief executive throughout the pandemic have been to ensure we continue to serve our readers, digitally and in print, while prioritising the safety of our employees and minimising the economic impact of the pandemic on our business. Strong Guardian journalism relies on a solid business and a team of dedicated commercial colleagues across many different departments. Working life has been very different in 2020, and I am extremely grateful for the commitment and flexibility our employees have shown this year.
Our numbers: 2.1 billion unique browsers to our digital platforms, +67% on the year before **
The growing appetite for Guardian journalism was reflected in continued growth in readership – we had a record 1.5bn unique browsers and 16.4bn page views to our digital platforms during 2019-20, both up more than 20% on the previous 12 months.
Whilst we experienced record digital readership, coronavirus has accelerated difficult changes across the media sector – we have responded by restructuring some areas of our business as part of a strategy to support the Guardian’s long-term commercial growth. Sadly these changes have included job losses for a number of colleagues, to whom we will say goodbye over the next few months. This process has been difficult, and we have aimed to support all those affected as much as possible. We thank those leaving the organisation greatly for their contribution to the Guardian.
Despite these pressures, our unique reader relationship model has proved successful. As our editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, writes, the Guardian has provided independent, fact-based journalism to unprecedented numbers of readers and we have seen an increase in readers’ support over the past year.
Since the start of 2020, we have gained 268,000 new digital subscriptions and recurring contributions, an increase of 43%. As a result, digital reader revenues have continued to grow – with recurring contributions and digital subscriptions (boosted by the popularity of our flagship Editions app) two critical sources of income to support our business and our journalism. Print subscriptions to the Guardian, the Observer and our international news magazine Guardian Weekly (with 70% of its subscribers living outside the UK) have also grown to record levels. And in the past 12 months we have received more than 530,000 single contributions from readers who believe in the Guardian’s purpose, and want to support us. Including print subscribers and single contributions, people have supported the Guardian financially more than 1.5m times in the last 12 months.
Our numbers: 75,000 attendees to our Guardian Live online programme **
We adapted very quickly to the new normal. Guardian Live made a successful pivot to digital, with over 75,000 attendees to our online events, and Guardian Jobs supported the NHS, offering free job listings.
And, while the advertising market remains challenging, teams have continued to win new business and high-value repeat bookings – a testament to the strength of our relationships and reputation for brilliant execution.
Our international outlook and presence continues to deliver for us commercially as well as strengthening Guardian journalism, with significant growth in the US and Australia where we have well-established presences. And, in the year of Brexit, we have had record numbers reading and supporting the Guardian financially from continental Europe. We will continue to invest in the Guardian’s increasingly global business.
We live in a time of great economic uncertainty. There are many challenges ahead for the global news media sector, but we remain confident that the Guardian’s core strengths – high-quality, trusted journalism, a meaningful purpose and trusted brand, a highly talented set of employees, and a commitment to being reader-centric and reader-funded – provide a solid foundation for the organisation to achieve long-term success.
Thank you for supporting us. In a deeply troubling year it is inspiring that so many readers agree that progressive journalism is needed more than ever.
Reader support | Our reader relationships
Readers in 180 countries fund our journalism because they believe in our mission, our independence, and our reporting – and that’s inspiring to all of us who work at the Guardian.
From our supporters: Only this week I was recommending the Guardian subscription to a friend because it is such good value for the money. Having read today’s newsletter, I have just altered my contribution and will endeavour to increase it further in due course. In this ever more dangerous world and the sinister manoeuvring of our own government, independent reportage with integrity, which is what you provide, is essential and I thank you for it. Liz Hanson, a reader in Melrose, Scotland
Our unique ownership model means we are not controlled by a billionaire owner, or a group of shareholders demanding financial returns – any profits made, and all financial contributions from readers, are reinvested directly into our journalism.
Many supporters believe, like we do, that everyone deserves access to quality journalism, so choose to help us remain open and free of a paywall. Our supporters tell us that they deeply value the approach we have chosen – where everyone can access Guardian journalism, regardless of where they live, what they can afford, or how they like to consume the news.
Alongside our successful contributions model, in 2020 we have a renewed focus on offering digital subscriptions to our premium apps, in order to build a financially sustainable organisation.
As part of our ongoing mission to deliver purposeful, quality journalism, we have evolved our digital subscription products in line with the changing demands of readers in a world of constant breaking news, best digital practices and journalistic innovation. In 2020, we introduced a Weekend Edition for Australian readers, as well as a special Earth Edition to sit alongside our UK Daily Edition – available as part of the Guardian’s digital subscription. We also launched Guardian Puzzles – a dedicated app for crosswords and puzzles from the Guardian and the Observer.
From our supporters: I so appreciate the excellent and authentic reporting that the Guardian does – never more than now. I depend on your reporters and photographers to cover US stories with a deep cultural understanding of not only the news, but also the underlying issues that provide a necessary context to truly make sense of where we find ourselves today. Thank you for all that you all do! Susan E Werbe, a reader in Newton, Massachusetts, US
Remarkably, despite the health and economic depredations of Covid-19, record numbers of readers chose to financially support us in 2020. The ongoing developments around the global coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the Guardian’s climate pledge and its US election coverage have all been significant drivers of reader support.
Our numbers: 900,000 digital recurring acts of support, +43% since November 2019 **
The Guardian has gained 268,000 new digital subscriptions and recurring contributions over the last year, an increase of 43%. Total digital recurring support now stands at over 900,000, up from 632,000 in November 2019. An 11% year-on-year increase in subscriptions to print products helped offset the hit from the global pandemic to newsstand sales. We now have a record 119,000 print subscriptions across the Guardian, the Observer and Guardian Weekly. In the 12 months to end of October 2020, the Guardian also received over 530,000 single contributions from readers across the world. Including print subscribers and single contributions, people have supported the Guardian financially more than 1.5m times in the last 12 months.
In the past few months, we have started to encourage readers to sign in when they visit the Guardian digitally, so we can remember their preferences, improve their experience of the site, and tailor the messages and advertising they see.
Strengthening our relationship with our readers, combined with award-winning journalism that the world needs right now, along with our huge reach globally is how we’ll attract more people to support the Guardian financially by the end of our 200th anniversary.
Journalism | Guardian reporting
2020 has been a year of monumental disruption, tragedy, activism and change. Throughout these disorienting times, we have sought to go beyond simply reporting the news to provide clarity, hold the powerful to account, and bring empathy and humanity to stories that may otherwise go untold.
More than ever, our evidence-based journalism and rigorous analysis has sought to be comprehensive, authoritative and calm – allowing Guardian readers to navigate an at times overwhelming volume of information and noise.
Reporting on the the pandemic
Coronavirus is one of the biggest and most complex stories of our time, touching on all facets of life – politics, science, the economy, people’s lives and relationships. Throughout, our reporting on the pandemic has been expert and courageous – not only in holding those in power to account for their handling of the crisis, but in bringing warmth and humanity to a bleak period and focusing on the tragic stories of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost around the world.
Our numbers: 63% growth in subscribers to Guardian YouTube channels **
In the early days of the crisis, our 100 Days series looked closely at the growing international impact of the pandemic and our insightful video explainers and Q&As clearly guided our readers to the facts during an increasingly complicated time. We pivoted our Science Weekly podcast to focus on listeners’ questions about the virus – doubling the podcast’s audience in just a few months. And, as the situation worsened, our Lost to the Virus series and Lost on the Frontline, a Guardian US and Kaiser Health News initiative, highlighted the immense human cost with care and sensitivity. Lost on the Frontline has become the exclusive US data source for Amnesty International’s initiative to track deaths of global healthcare workers from Covid-19. The series also influenced the Frontline Heroes Act, a proposed legislation in the US Congress to provide support for the families of fallen healthcare workers and was referenced by Senator Ron Wyden during a hearing about the national PPE shortage.
We have never lost sight of the importance in holding the powerful to account for their role in managing the crisis. Within the Guardian’s investigations team we established a coronavirus investigations wing, publishing a string of exclusives. We uncovered who attends the secret scientific Sage advisory group – and revealed Boris Johnson’s then chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, attended meetings. We revealed the private firm running the UK PPE stockpile, Movianto, was sold in the middle of the pandemic and in a joint exclusive with ITV revealed chaotic conditions at Movianto’s warehouse, which resulted in delays in deploying vital supplies to UK healthcare workers. Our in-depth piece looking at missed opportunities pre-lockdown, the inside story of herd immunity and behind-the-scenes tussles between scientists and politicians was a comprehensive picture of the UK’s missteps. More recently, our journalists unpicked the allegations of “chumocracy” at the heart of the pandemic response, with a series of revelatory stories. In opinion, we discussed the government’s secret Covid contracts.
Most notable was our sensational exclusive (with the Daily Mirror) on Cummings’ lockdown trip, which provoked national outrage and created the biggest crisis in trust for the UK government in recent years. The scoop forced Cummings to explain his actions in a Downing Street garden press conference and led the prime minister to make the extraordinary claim that his senior adviser had done nothing wrong and that people needed to ‘move on’ despite millions of people having abided by the rules.
As both Johnson and Donald Trump succumbed to the virus, we closely covered the news of the president’s Covid diagnosis, hospitalisation, bizarre joyride, and his contagious inner circle. And we looked at how Johnson’s diagnosis, denials and admissions took the nation on an emotional rollercoaster.
We challenged Trump’s claims that hydroxychloroquine was a “miracle cure” drug and revealed how the leader of a group peddling bleach as a coronavirus cure wrote to the president the week before he promoted disinfectant as a possible treatment. We improved and continue to update our coronavirus trackers and UK regional breakdowns, providing a valuable service to our readers over many months. And, following a reader callout, our science team answered questions about the pandemic covering everything from vaping to vaccines.
We focused on its effect on young people with a new project – the Covid Generation – telling their stories, from missed education to the toll on mental health, through powerful words, portraits and their own lockdown drawings. We also provided hope by sharing practical and positive stories in series such as Guardian Australia’s The Good Place, the young entrepreneurs defying lockdown, and Anywhere but Westminster’s lockdown specials.
Our correspondents around the globe contributed to our coronavirus coverage and our understanding of how different countries tackled the pandemic, from Iran – a country in the grip of one of the worst outbreaks – to how Venezuela used the crisis as a cover to crack down on dissent. From the plight of tourists trapped in a Tenerife hotel, to the eerily empty streets of Milan and the desperation of Covid sufferers in Beijing.
We looked at the scandal of the Ruby Princess in Australia and the British holidaymakers stuck on cruise ships unable to dock. We followed the quarantine of Melbourne and the easing of restrictions, including a fantastic First Dog cartoon and a look at how Melbourne residents embraced their first day of freedom.
Our coverage of the pandemic was also recognised as some of the most trusted among the major news brands. Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for Journalism cited the Guardian as doing the best job of all the papers among UK media outlets, and ranked us as the second most visited UK news site for coronavirus updates, second only to the BBC. A separate Survation study also named the Guardian as the most trusted UK paper on the topic.
Diverse voices and Black Lives Matter
Outside of the pandemic, the other major global story of 2020 has been the Black Lives Matter movement. Our coverage since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May has been urgent, thought-provoking and clear in what has been a deeply personal and emotionally charged moment for so many. With journalists located around the world, we have been able to provide a unique and intimate perspective on the worldwide protest movement for justice.
In the US, we reported, often under difficult conditions, on the protests for justice, incidents of police brutality and counter-demonstrations by racist militias. We investigated how communities of colour are enduring three crises at once: endemic police violence, Covid-19, and an economic crisis threatening jobs and livelihoods. Our coverage explored the history of brutal police violence and systemic racism in the US, and the institutional reforms needed to make a meaningful difference. Our journalists reported on these events, and the broader social and political questions they beg, with clarity, authority and purpose. We raised the voices of protesters, armed our readers with the facts, and provided wide-ranging perspectives on the government response. We profiled the black-led groups leading the calls for justice, the families directly affected by police brutality and asked what it really means to ”defund the police”. We exposed how structural poverty and enduring racism in the deep South has a direct impact on the deaths of black Americans from Covid-19, and our exclusive piece on the impacts of global heating further revealed how black and brown neighbourhoods would be unequally affected. Our interview with Bubba Wallace, Nascar’s only black driver, revealed rapidly changing attitudes to race in the sport.
In Australia, we continue to focus on Indigenous Australians and the injustices they experience. We broke stories on outrages involving the mining company Rio Tinto, reporting on the firm’s decision to blow up a sacred Aboriginal site and the flawed legislation that allowed it. Our reporting ultimately led to the resignation of Rio Tinto’s CEO and senior executives as well as a parliamentary inquiry recommending a moratorium on any destruction of potential heritage sites until laws are passed in the new year. Our multiple award-winning Deaths Inside series, which has examined every Indigenous death in custody since 2008, continued to uncover stories of injustice this year. Images of protesters, who marched in cities and towns around Australia in support of Black Lives Matter, cited our Deaths Inside project and our investigations into the death of David Dungay Jnr to highlight systemic racism in Australia.
In light of the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol, we reported from communities across the UK. Our Young, British and Black series highlighted 50 voices of this generation and we launched a powerful Black Lives series that looked at the extraordinary stories of the people at the forefront of social change and civil rights. And, to celebrate Black History Month, we produced an interactive timeline documenting two millennia of world-shaping individuals and momentous events that define black history and gave away glossy wallcharts with the newspaper.
Our opinion writers also covered the shocking global implications and big new ideas emerging from the crisis in The World Turned Upside Down series, and highlighted the renewed urgency of anti-racist movements in America and the UK in columns by Patricia Williams on George Floyd’s killing, and Afua Hirsch on racism built in Britain.
Although coronavirus has dominated the news in the UK, we’ve continued to report rigorously on other stories that are affecting people’s lives.
On 31 January, we marked Brexit eve, capturing the mood of the nation, from Westminster to West Yorkshire. We wrote about the pain thousands of our readers felt and published our “Missing You Already” supplement, which included a moving series of letters to the UK from key cultural figures, generating an appreciative response from our readers.
Away from Brexit, our reporting has captured the complexities of the coronavirus pandemic, a multitude of government U-turns, tumultuous party politics and reflected a determination to capture the hidden effects of an unprecedented year.
With input from thousands of pupils, teachers and parents via our communities team, we led the way in our reporting on the GCSE and A-levels fiasco – from our exclusive forecast that 40% of A-level results would be downgraded to revealing that the chair of Ofqual threatened to quit unless the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, publicly backed him.
In business, we went back undercover at Sports Direct and discovered that question marks remain over the chain’s treatment of staff. We also covered the dramatic events as two of Britain’s biggest retailers collapsed – the demise of Philip Green’s empire and, the following day, of Debenhams. Off the back of Guardian reporting that consistently called for organisations such as Tesco to review their stance on rate rebates, big supermarket chains changed their positions and repaid hundreds of millions to the treasury.
Our coverage of the EHRC’s damning report into antisemitism in the Labour party was detailed and revelatory, including our scoop revealing the key insights the day before the report was released. And – in the same week – we published a letter signed by more than 800 legal figures, accusing the government of dangerous rhetoric and calling for an immediate apology.
As footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end child food poverty captured the public’s imagination, we spoke to the families dependent on free school meals. And it was inspiring for us to read that Rashford was driven to campaign for free school meals after reading an article in the Guardian.
And, with the ongoing inquiry into the Grenfell fire – which restarted in September 2020, 28 months since it began – we continued to highlight this hugely important story, covering the fallouts from the inquiry and speaking with the survivors still seeking justice.
Our investigative reporting has continued to expose and uncover injustices across the UK. In March, a critical court judgment into Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum found he had orchestrated the abduction of his two daughters. This was the culmination of a 20-year inquiry that began with a Guardian exclusive. We doggedly followed the long and bitter court battle, which revealed UK police had been deterred from investigating the kidnap.
We secured leaked Foreign Office documents, which uncovered that it was No 10 – not the Home Office – driving controversial plans to process asylum seekers in other countries.
We have also maintained our focus on previous Guardian exclusives. Since the Guardian exposed the scandal of the wrongful deportation of Commonwealth citizens from the Caribbean in 2018, the Windrush debate continued with our reporting on the number of people entitled to compensation who may still be unknown. The EHRC Windrush report was a damning indictment of the hostile environment policy and the seventh critical report arising from our reporting.
We reported on a public inquiry into undercover policing, which launched in November – six years after it was first announced. The inquiry was a result of a Guardian investigation revealing how police covertly monitored the campaign for justice over the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. It followed years of disclosures uncovered by the Guardian and by the activists who had been the victims of spying.
In the US, the Guardian has continued to deliver deep and impactful journalism during a year in which the country’s social, economic and political fabric was dramatically challenged. We repeatedly broke news on the Trump administration’s constant departure from norms, starting with the anger and divisiveness of his state of the union address, shortly followed by Nancy Pelosi’s electrifying response.
A key strand of our election coverage was our year-long Fight to Vote series – which launched in 2019. It assessed the many ways Americans are denied the fundamental right to vote, and included an ambitious ballot-tracking exercise. Our piece on Trump’s admission that he was undermining the US Postal Service to make it harder to vote by mail was cited in a lawsuit against the USPS. The project continues to deliver essential reporting on Trump’s attempts to defy the election outcome.
In February, we detailed how the president survived impeachment and reflected on a decade in which America swung from the hope of the Obama era to the nihilism and misogyny of Trump. We chronicled the Democratic primaries and reported on Kamala Harris’s memorable challenge to Joe Biden’s race record.
Our numbers: +100 million page views to the Guardian’s US election live results tracker **
We followed the twists and turns as the Republican party rushed to fill the supreme court seat left open after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. An exclusive Guardian investigation revealed that Amy Coney Barrett – Trump’s now-confirmed supreme court justice – was involved with a secretive Christian group, a story cited by the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, in his attack on the media. Our reporting on Coney Barrett’s anti-abortion stance was referenced by Senator Richard Blumenthal, who credited the Guardian for making key information public while questioning Barrett during the hearings.
Our election explainers – including the inventive Build Your Own Election and how the electoral college helps the Republicans, enabled readers to visualise paths to victory for both candidates. Our live election results tracker was a monumental success and, along with our round the clock live blog, was a cornerstone of our coverage. Almost a year in planning, the tracker broke all traffic records, becoming the Guardian’s most viewed page ever, culminating in more than 100m page views in election week. It formed part of a record-breaking week for the Guardian overall, with more than 190m page views and 52.9m unique browsers worldwide within 24 hours.
Our Today in Focus special US election episode took listeners through the momentous night moving from New York to Florida, Arizona to Pennsylvania and trying to make sense of what happened. After the election result was eventually called, we profiled the president-elect, looking at how Biden styled himself as the antithesis of Trumpism and at the election of Kamala Harris, the first woman of colour to be voted vice-president.
Outside of politics, our journalists followed the sexual assault and rape trial of the disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein. As a guilty verdict was handed down, we broke the news before other major news organisations, and documented his rise and fall, the key moments of the trial, the six women at the heart of the trial and how it divided the #MeToo movement.
In December, we also joined a global consortium to continue the work of murdered Mexican journalists. In collaboration with 24 international media outlets across 18 countries, and coordinated by Forbidden Stories, the Cartel Project investigates the global networks of Mexican drug cartels and their political connections around the world.
Our reporting has also focused on society, culture and lifestyle. Our State of Men series took a hard look at what it means to be male in 2020. In a similar vein, we launched Childfree, a series in which women spoke openly about their decisions to not have children. And our pandemic epiphanies series centred on positive stories on what writers and readers discovered about themselves during the pandemic. Our series Trans Freedom Fighters shone a light on the trans and non-binary leaders on the frontlines of 2020 organising and activism in the US.
Our brilliant reporting of the massive Australian bushfires continued into 2020, as the devastating fires continued to burn across vast areas of the country. In the most devastating bushfire season ever, our small team closely followed events as conditions worsened, from Mallacoota beach to Bairnsdale, where conditions on the ground proved most devastating. Our analysis of the fires and the failure of the prime minister to act, or even acknowledge the connection to the climate crisis, shocked the world. Our innovative visual explainer showed how the 2020 fires are very different from those in previous years with an exclusive story revealing how the Australian government approved a Chinese company to run a water mining operation in drought-stricken Queensland.
Our political reporting in Australia has exposed significant flaws, consistently holding the government to account.
Our dogged coverage of the robodebt scandal culminated in November 2020 with a $1.2b payout to 400,000 victims. We revealed how the coalition government believed it had no duty of care for welfare recipients, and also exposed the questionable $400k grant given to an aged care home operator when others missed out.
The New South Wales corruption tribunal was gripping, and exposed how the state premier, Gladys Berejiklian, had been in a secret relationship with a disgraced former MP, with excellent commentary on the fallout and unanswered questions.
We continued our scrutiny of the government’s role in the climate emergency. In our Green Recovery series in May, we highlighted how there were many ways stimulus spending might have also hastened the transition to a low-carbon economy, but the government didn’t take up those options and the year ends with Australia’s climate policy debate still stuck in an endless loop of political rhetoric, but under increasingly critical scrutiny from the rest of the world.
Facebook has apologised for defamatory posts about an Australian politician – it was not even prepared to delete the posts until Guardian Australia reported on the case in August.
We also explored how Australia is starting to recognise coalmining might not be viable long term, including an exclusive on the private investigator working for the controversial Adani mine who secretly spied on and photographed an activist’s family. We also exclusively revealed a photograph of an Australian soldier drinking beer from a prosthetic leg thought to belong to a Taliban fighter killed by special forces in Afghanistan.
And finally, The Wait series gave a voice to people and places that may otherwise go unheard, telling the story of the forgotten refugees stranded in Indonesia as a result of Australia’s border crackdowns.
Guardian Australia has led the reporting on many of these local stories and will continue to pursue them, because facts and accountability matter, for good public policy and to shore up citizens’ trust in the political system.
At the start of the year, our groundbreaking scoop revealed that Jeff Bezos had his phone hacked by the Saudi crown prince. This was a truly astonishing exposé that Politico called ”the Guardian’s mega-scoop – a genuine marmalade-dropper”. The story had an immediate and far-reaching impact, and was followed up all over the world.
The New Zealand election was another huge moment; from the details of Jacinda Ardern’s win and possible coalition to our reporting on the broader political picture on why the country does not respond to populism in ways other countries do.
We ran a series of deeply moving pieces to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, including a beautiful dispatch from the memorial ceremony. We also spoke with survivors who returned to the camp for the anniversary in a series of heart-wrenching interviews, including on Today in Focus.
Our This is Europe series featured many memorable stories — from our exclusive on the EU’s support for vulnerable EU nationals to remain in the UK, and research on rising support for Eurosceptic parties, to a collection of European critics’ responses to UK culture. We launched Europeans – a series of seven new films from across Europe and revealed how Europe’s demographic map is being reshaped from Germany to Spain.
We focused on the profound changes taking place in Hong Kong in our Fight for Hong Kong series. Our Today in Focus podcast featured the pro-democracy activist Nathan Law, and a fantastic video followed a Hong Kong journalist working for a pro-democracy newspaper in the shadow of China’s controversial national security law.
Our exclusive report on how Jordan became the country with the highest smoking rates in the world focused on claims of big tobacco interference and undue political influence – resulting in swift government interventions by banning indoor smoking across the country.
August’s explosion in Beirut was one of the world’s largest non-nuclear blasts. We covered the explosion with on-the-ground coverage, witness accounts and explainers. We later told the stories of the people caught up in the blast in an extraordinary interactive using footage survivors captured on their smartphones.
As protests continued in Belarus over the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko, a Guardian documentary followed three independent Belarusian film-makers as they turned their cameras on themselves and their communities. The photo of a protester holding up a sign inspired by a striking Guardian Weekly cover serves as a reminder that our journalism provides hope to many in the face of injustices.
And, as the Nigerian government was accused of clamping down on one of the most striking protest movements for decades, we looked at the protests against police violence and the anti-robbery squad (Sars) that have swept the country.
In what was a particularly disrupted year for sport, our journalism has remained as important and impactful as ever.
In November, our coverage of Diego Maradona’s death was quick, thoughtful, visually strong and properly international. The package of pieces curated by Sachin Nakrani included a fine appreciation by Jonathan Wilson and a superb piece by Marcela Mora y Araujo on Maradona’s meaning to Argentina.
Our exclusive investigation, which began in April, into allegations of sexual abuse of girls and young women by the president of the Haiti FA, Yves Jean-Bart, led in November to him being banned for life by Fifa, showcasing the impact of Guardian journalism.
Earlier in the year, we reported on the funding struggles of sports clubs and associations, revealing how UK Athletics fought to renew its TV deal with the BBC, and exposing plans to slash funding by 50% for second-tier English rugby union clubs.
We were at the forefront of reporting on Manchester City’s two-year ban from the Champions League, followed with exclusives on the club’s funding and a possible further investigation. And we broke two major athletics stories – on claims of neglect in British athletics and the tussle over Nike’s Vaporfly running shoes.
During the lockdown, our Football Weekly podcast grew its audience, despite no football taking place, and produced thoughtful specials on the “gamblification” of the sport, and on racism in football and mental health.
The impact of Black Lives Matter reverberated throughout the sporting world too. We ran pieces on the lack of BAME representation in sport leadership, while our Sportblog provided some powerful opinion pieces, including Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent’s broadcast on cricket and Black Lives Matter.
Over the summer, our series on the greatest tennis players of the last 50 years delivered an excellent response, with thousands of replies to our callout. In September, the US Open was notable for Novak Djokovic’s disqualification and the rise of Naomi Osaka.
Coverage of the collapse of the Newcastle United takeover was revelatory and nuanced, as was our report on the shocking allegations of abuse in British gymnastics. Our feature on how Jürgen Klopp transformed Liverpool provided great insights, as did our exclusive interview with Liverpool’s title-winning captain, Jordan Henderson.
In October, our exclusive investigation revealed how much the FA chairman, Greg Clarke, and the Premier League knew, but did not admit, about secret Operation Big Picture talks. We also explored how the plans did not go far enough for women’s football. One of our Sportblog pieces was hailed by Gary Lineker as “the most sensible and balanced comment piece I’ve read on this by far”. In November, Clarke resigned after a disastrous select committee appearance, while our guide to the US golf Masters provided much-needed cheer. We were also the first to report on a revelatory film about Liverpool and Klopp and featured a vivid interview with the boxer Bilal Fawaz.
During the past year we’ve continued to report on every aspect of the environment – publishing a piece of environmental journalism roughly every three hours. In October, we renewed our commitment to readers, pledging to keep reporting on the climate emergency, raising the alarm and investigating the crisis and possible solutions. As part of this commitment we launched our environmental dashboard, which tracks a selection of the planet’s vital signs, from carbon dioxide levels to Arctic sea ice, providing a visual representation of the growing climate crisis.
Our Last Chance series looked at what the world is doing to fight global heating and manage a green recovery and our exclusive analysis revealed that Covid recovery plans are threatening climate hopes.
US congressmen Peter A Defazio and Matt Gaetz cited the importance of the Guardian piece “The secretive government agency planting ‘cyanide bombs’ across the US” – part of our This Land is Your Land series – in a letter they sent to Congress.
As evidence of increased global heating accumulates, we investigated its devastating impact of this around the world. As bushfires burned across vast areas of Australia, our team worked tirelessly to produce outstanding coverage that has had a real impact both in Australia and abroad.
As major weather events become more commonplace – from severe wildfires in California to Hurricane Laura – we launched 100 Days to Save the Earth, which took an in-depth look at the ways in which Trump’s presidency has made America dirtier and the planet warmer following his withdrawal from the US from the Paris agreement. As part of a year-long series on America’s water crisis, with partner Consumer Reports, our landmark investigation revealed how millions of ordinary Americans are facing unaffordable bills for running water. A piece by our US editor asked whether it was too much to ask for Americans to have access to clean water in 2020.
Our numbers: +20% growth in increase in average monthly unique browsers to environmental reporting **
Following the Guardian’s Polluters series, which revealed the firms behind a third of all carbon emissions, in January 2020 we announced that the Guardian would not accept advertising from fossil fuel extractive companies. This announcement sent a signal to encourage other companies to follow our lead, increasing the pressure on oil companies, miners and other extractive industries to change course. Our exclusive on the vast profits made by big oil since 1990 served as a timely reminder of their role in the escalating climate emergency. And, in the lead-up to Davos, Greta Thunberg and other climate strikers wrote for us urging world leaders to abandon the fossil fuel economy.
Features, lifestyle, culture and the arts
Despite it being a tricky year for in-person interviews, we’ve still featured some fantastic names – Tom Hanks on surviving coronavirus, Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza on stepping away from the movement she helped create, the warm and irrepressible Miriam Margolyes and Samuel L Jackson on roots, race and revolution, Helena Bonham Carter on divorce, Pierce Brosnan on life after Bond and a hilarious Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. We also had a brilliant – and incredibly rare – interview with Joni Mitchell, and shared our encounters with Mary Trump and Jane Fonda. Our upbeat Black Lives series has been an inspiring insight into people at the forefront of social change and civil rights.
Our interview with Andre Leon Talley, former creative director of US Vogue, dug deep into the ruthlessness at the heart of the fashion industry. As part of Weekend’s graduate special – class of 2020 – Victoria Beckham answered questions from fashion students on personal style, the Spice Girls and fashion after corona.
We continued to give a voice and a platform to women alleging sexual assault. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein verdict, Rose McGowan spoke to us about how her fight for justice cost her motherhood and a career, but sparked a movement and brought a prolific offender to justice.
Weekend featured an exclusive interview with Amy Dorris – a former model who alleges Trump forced his tongue down her throat and groped her at 1997 US Open. Model Linda Evangelista spoke exclusively to the Guardian in support of four women who for the first time shared their stories of sexual assault or rape by her ex-husband, former Elite Models boss Gérald Marie. The story followed our compelling investigation into Trump’s involvement with the Elite Look of the Year contest.
In our world exclusive with Elena Ferrante, the author answered questions from translators and booksellers, covering everything from coronavirus to therapy and we featured an exclusive extract from the late Clive James’ final book on the meaning of poetry in his life.
As the long-awaited book in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy was published, we spoke exclusively to Hilary Mantel and published the very first extract of The Mirror & the Light. Four years after leaving office, we spoke with Barack Obama about Trump, Biden and what the future holds for America, and also featured an extract of his new book.
We published a moving long read on the fate of people deported from the UK to countries where they have no family or support as well as a beautiful piece on the closure of a high street butcher’s shop after four generations in one family. We looked into the battle to overthrow the Tampax empire, reviewed the evidence – or lack of it – in the unsolved mystery of the Gatwick drone and examined how the previously little-known Zoom is now being used by everyone from princes to piano teachers.
We looked into the race to produce human breast milk in a lab, asking how liberating this might be for new mothers, and featured a moving account of the reality of a second lockdown with terminal cancer.
Our piece about the quilters of Alabama was a fascinating look at how their masterpieces can be viewed as tokens of solace and defiance in tragic times. And from CocoRosie’s call to arms to Melania’s roses, our arts and culture team looked at the arts and pop culture that summed up the Trump era.
In an apparently record year for oversized veg, we asked what motivates people to grow an 8-metre beetroot – and if there is any skullduggery involved. Our Indigenious fashion shoot featured creations from 28 First Nations designers and artists and looked at how Australian fashion is taking notice of the country’s oldest design traditions.
Feast continued to provide inspiration for those of us tired of the same sandwiches on repeat for lunch with a series of brilliant alternatives – including Ottolenghi’s delicious spin on the working from home classic, beans on toast.
In a time where life can feel a lifetime away from “normal”, our series of 21 positive ideas to remake the world brought much-needed respite and hope. In our staycation special, comedians shared their worst trips and, after Blind date went temporarily virtual, we were thrilled to see it back in the wild.
Journalism supported by philanthropy
Philanthropic funding supports impactful, mission-driven reporting projects at the Guardian. Our projects are often timely, but none more so this year than the Fight to Vote series, which was supported by foundations including Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Park Foundation. This series launched a year before the US presidential election and was a critical anchor of our election coverage. With philanthropic support for a dedicated editorial team, reporting from the series established the role of Republican suppression tactics and the campaign to undermine election integrity long before the election. The Guardian was first to cover the shift to mail-in voting, the role of USPS, and Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud, and broke many stories, including one on dark money behind voting restrictions and the Trump campaign’s first failed attempts to prove voter fraud.
Similarly, the Age of Extinction series supported by the BAND Foundation and the Wyss Foundation – which reports on the global biodiversity catastrophe – has ensured that our interconnectedness with nature and its critical role in our own existence has remained a front-and-centre consideration among policymakers across the world dealing with the Covid outbreak, including the UN and the UK government.
Support from an array of funders including Humanity United, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Packard Foundation, Open Philanthropy Project and the 11th Hour Fund continues to make possible in-depth and vital storytelling on a range of environmental issues, such as the global impact of intensive farming practices, the dramatic changes taking place in our oceans, and the ongoing damages to our public lands. Award-winning reporting on global inequality, poverty, and human rights will continue in the years ahead, with expanded support for the series on labour exploitation and modern slavery and the continuation of the global development site. We have seen immense impact across our projects, all of which are contributing to delivering change at a policy level as well as creating a lasting impact for the individuals affected by the issues.
An incredible special report in the Observer on the Femicide Census, about the number of women killed by men every year was a truly shocking story, opening up the discussion on violence towards women. It came not long after readers expressed concern about the Guardian publishing an obituary of the convicted rapist and murderer Peter Sutcliffe – a sensitive topic covered by our readers’ editor in a thoughtful column, in addition to reporting of his victims and their stories.
In the run up to the US election, the Observer continued to dissect the role of Facebook and the potential issues the platform could cause for Biden, including two powerful interviews with the whistleblower Yaël Eisenstat and early investor Roger McNamee. A deep dive into Facebook also looked at the pivotal role the platform would play in the US elections.
In July, the Observer revealed how pressure from Donald Trump led to the British government banning the Chinese technology giant Huawei from its 5G telecoms network. And, the Observer also led on the story that the same controversial algorithm that sparked the UK’s A-level results fiasco was to set 97% of GCSE results.
A year on from the death of Jack Merritt in the London Bridge attack, his family, friends and ex-offenders spoke to Observer New Review about Jack’s work transforming prisoners’ lives.
After seven weeks in intensive care, the author Michael Rosen spoke exclusively to the Observer about his experience of having coronavirus, and Glenda Jackson discussed how she considers herself an anti-social socialist in a revealing interview in the Observer Magazine.
The Black Lives Matter movement was a prominent inspiration for Observer journalism. We invited leading black British poets including Linton Kwesi Johnson, Grace Nichols and Raymond Antrobus to share thoughts on protest, change and the trailblazers who inspired them in the New Review. In a frank interview with the Observer magazine, Naomi Campbell lambasted the fashion industry for only becoming vocal about racism since the rise of Black Lives Matter. The star of the film Clemency, Alfre Woodard spoke to Observer New Review about the US prison system, her enslaved great-grandfather and her hopes for Black Lives Matter.
The Guardian in America | An update from the US
In a noisy media landscape, Guardian US stands out by providing a global perspective on American events and issues. Our reporters are rooted in communities across the country – with bureaux on the East Coast, including New York and Washington DC, the West Coast and in the South – and our vision is to continue to expand our coverage across the US.
2020 has been a momentous year. From the Trump administration’s mishandling of the pandemic, to the atrocious killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others that led to the powerful resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a dramatic US election – our journalism has been authoritative and courageous. In this year of extraordinary upheaval, we’ve shared wide-ranging perspectives, elevated underrepresented voices, challenged controversial decisions on the climate crisis, and held the powerful to account.
Reporting a presidential election in the midst of a pandemic presented new and interesting challenges for our news desk. A virtual newsroom replaced a crowded office. Major decisions were made via instant messaging instead of across desk dividers. Reporters were equipped with PPE to ensure they could do their jobs safely. What did not change was our commitment to be in as many places as possible, and speak to as many people as we could.
From our supporters: Thank you so much for both covering terrible news incidents, and reporting about them in a way that speaks for peace and justice. I’m not black. I am Cuban-American and I trust the Guardian to report the news with a good heart, being honest and balanced. That is why you are my #1 go-to source, that I believe in for the truth about what is happening. Maria Velma Davis, a reader in Bloomington, Indiana, US
On election day, we mobilised one of our largest editorial operations ever, with reporters on the ground in more than a dozen states, including Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona, as well as Iowa, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, California, North Carolina, New York and of course Washington DC.
We reported day and night, with a 24-hour editing and reporting rota ensuring continuous coverage around the clock. Our non-stop journalism drove record breaking traffic: on Wednesday 4 November, the day after the election, the Guardian recorded its highest-ever digital traffic, reaching more than 190m page views and 53m unique browsers worldwide in 24 hours, exceeding all previous traffic records by a huge margin. The Guardian’s live results tracker alone received more than 100m page views in election week and we also reached a larger number of Guardian readers in the US than ever before – 165m page views from 70m unique browsers in the month of November.
Just as the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, and the global reckoning it spurred, defined much of our coverage this year, it also inspired us to look inward and assess how we could improve our own diversity, equity and inclusion, to ensure we better reflect the communities we serve and allow for a more diverse range of perspectives. In addition to the Guardian’s global commitments to anti-racism, in the US we made explicit commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion that involved changing our newsroom practices and systems to make them more equitable, and building a more equal culture.
The degrading treatment of journalists by law enforcement, encouraged by political cheerleaders, is another deeply troubling aspect of these events. And our journalists have been reporting up close, at personal risk, to make sure millions of readers around the world can see for themselves what’s taking place. Throughout the year, Donald Trump continued to peddle disinformation, not just about the integrity of the news media, as he had done for the previous four years, but this time about coronavirus. Most notable was the misinformation he spread around the level of danger it posed and potential cures. As his daily coronavirus briefings became a platform for lies, campaigning and denials, Guardian political reporters were there, interrogating his claims and arming readers the facts, prioritising public safety in a way the administration was not.
From our supporters: I would like to congratulate the Guardian on the depth and breadth of the coverage over last week in relation to the election … thanks for the excellent journalism you continue to provide which is why I have no hesitation in continuing to subscribe to the paper. Louis Boyle, a reader in County Down, Northern Ireland **
We continue to reject climate denial rhetoric, doubling down on our commitments to the environment both in our reporting and as an organisation. In America, we joined forces with hundreds of newsrooms to promote climate solutions as part of Covering Climate Now. We also invited first-time voters to take over the Guardian homepage as part of climate week. Beyond our partnership with CCN, we collaborated with other like-minded partners to go deeper and further on stories that matter to Americans. We teamed up with Kaiser Health News to launch Lost on the Frontline – an interactive documenting every healthcare worker lost to Covid – and we launched America’s Water Crisis with Consumer Reports to investigate the challenges many in the US face getting access to safe, clean, affordable water.
Our base of recurring supporters also hit a milestone this year, surpassing 150,000 in August. This extraordinary growth is something we value deeply and which allows us to continue the essential reporting we do. This support was matched by an outpouring of generosity during our end-of-year campaign last year. Each year, we set an ambitious target to raise money for our journalism. In our 2019-20 end-of-year appeal, we raised $1.5m from more than 30,000 readers in every state across America.
This year, our new partnership with Apple News also introduced millions more Americans to Guardian journalism. The US business has continued to grow steadily, contributing positively to the Guardian as a whole.
Guardian US will continue to cover the stories that matter in America, with ever more readers and supporters who believe in our unique perspective, our business model and our editorial purpose. This year, more than ever, we thank all of our supporters, our readers, our philanthropic partners and patrons for their ongoing investment in high-quality, independent journalism.
The Guardian in Australia | An update from Australia
Readers turned to Guardian Australia in unprecedented numbers in 2020, looking for rigorous coverage and a trusted, independent voice amid some of the most significant news events in a generation. The surge in traffic is testament to the high level of trust in the Guardian, and the increasingly important role it plays in the Australian media landscape.
The year began with the continuation of live, round-the-clock coverage of the catastrophic bushfires on Australia’s east coast, which, by February, had destroyed 85,000 sq km of forest. Appreciation for Guardian Australia’s coverage was reflected in strong audience growth and record financial support.
Shortly after, the outbreak of Covid-19 propelled audience growth to record levels. The number of unique browsers increased by 104% in March alone to 11.6 million, making Guardian Australia the country’s fourth most popular news site. By August, several months into the pandemic, audience numbers remained high at 7.4 million, a year-on-year increase of 72%, cementing Guardian Australia’s position as the country’s leading progressive news brand.
From our supporters: To me, Guardian Australia is one of the last bastions of independent journalism in this country. It is essential to any democracy that we have a free and independent press. They hold those in power to account, interrogate issues and inform the masses. The Guardian does those things for me.
Charmaine, a reader in Victoria, Australia
Throughout the turbulent and challenging events of 2020, Guardian Australia’s stretched newsroom still managed to produce a series of distinctive, in-depth journalistic projects. The Frontline series took readers inside Australia’s lived experience of climate change, from new bushfire zones to disappearing underwater forests, while The Green Recovery series explored the environmental opportunities in Australia’s post-pandemic recovery. The Full Story podcast is continuing to grow strongly and was recognised at the 2020 Australian Podcast Awards, winning silver in the best current affairs podcast category, and bronze in the best documentary podcast category.
In partnership with the University of NSW, Guardian Australia introduced Temporary, a narrative podcast series that tells the stories of refugees stuck in legal limbo in Australia. The eight-part series focuses on the asylum-seekers languishing in Australia’s so-called “legacy caseload” of about 30,000 asylum-seekers arrived in Australia by boat between 2012 and 2014.
Guardian Australia has pursued ambitious, high-impact, award-winning journalism on topics including the climate crisis, bushfires, logging and land clearing, Indigenous deaths in custody, the coronavirus pandemic, questionable use of taxpayers’ money by MPs, the ongoing threats to species, the robodebt scandal and, of course, the everyday political issues. For their coverage of Rio Tinto’s destruction of Juukan Gorge cave, a sacred Indigenous site in Western Australia, Lorena Allam and Calla Wahlquist won the Walkley award for coverage of Indigenous affairs.
Guardian Australia’s latest series, Dreams interrupted, investigates how the pandemic is shaping a generation of young Australians who now find themselves in a recession that will have an outsized impact on the trajectory of their lives. The series, funded by the Barlow Foundation, will also explore how it is that so many Indigenous children are in jail, and how the disruptions of 2020 can give rise to an environmentally friendly recovery.
In Australia, the challenges to journalism from many quarters are unrelenting – perpetual job losses, the reduction in the number of regional news outlets and cuts to the public broadcaster. In the face of these conditions, Guardian Australia made a concerted effort to grow its community to 150,000 supporters. The fundraiser was the first premised on supporting Guardian Australia itself, rather than distinct editorial projects, and was highly successful. The target was surpassed ahead of schedule, and several innovative features were launched, including an interactive map to display messages from supporters across the country.
Our numbers: 150,000 community of supporters across Australia **
Amid the softening Covid-19 advertising market, Guardian Australia was bolstered by philanthropic support from VivCourt, the Judith Neilson Institute and the Limb Family Foundation. Meanwhile, a grant from the Balnaves Foundation helped fund a dedicated arts reporter for three years, and a grant confirmed from the Barlow Impact Group will fund three upcoming projects on youth inequality. In November, Guardian Australia’s Indigenous investigations series, launched in 2018 with funding from the Balnaves Foundation, was recognised with Philanthropy Australia’s 2020 Indigenous philanthropy award.
In October 2020, we were proud to launch Australia Weekend, the Guardian’s first digital app-based product created specifically for Australian readers. The edition, which lives in the Guardian Editions app, is the first product created specifically for the Australian market, and provides a compelling new way to experience and support Guardian Australia journalism. The launch of Australia Weekend represents an important milestone as Guardian Australia looks to build on its growth in audience and financial supporters.
At the Guardian | Our people, culture and organisational impact
Our journalism seeks to have a wider, more positive contribution to society. Our values – of honesty, integrity, courage, fairness, and a sense of duty to the reader and the community – are likewise reflected in our people, culture and organisational impact.
Coronavirus brought a year of extraordinary change to working practices for Guardian employees around the world. We responded quickly to the pandemic, shifting the majority of our workforce to remote working – with only very small groups of essential staff producing the website and newspaper from our offices in London. We have been forced to rethink our ways of working, adapt to the virtual world and overcome the challenges of keeping our teams connected with one another.
Coronavirus has also accelerated many of the long-term trends affecting the news industry and, like many other titles, several areas of our business have faced financial pressures. In July 2020, we announced that we would need to restructure a number of areas, which sadly included job losses, meaning a number of valued colleagues left the organisation this year.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, many organisations, including the Guardian, have had to recognise that there is still much work for us to do. People from different backgrounds have different perspectives on what makes “news” and we recognise our employees need to reflect the audiences we serve. We have made some advances in diversifying the Guardian in recent years, but we need to accelerate our efforts so we are better equipped to produce more meaningful and more impactful journalism.
Working collaboratively with our People of Colour groups based in the UK and US, we announced a company-wide commitment to anti-racism and plans to improve representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic people throughout the organisation. This work culminated in a comprehensive race action plan that looks closely at how we operate across all levels of the company; from hiring to remuneration, training to career progression. We commissioned Marcus Ryder, an expert on media diversity, to review our target of at least 20% black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) representation across the organisation, and to make recommendations for department-specific goals.
Our efforts in this space have also involved reflecting on the Guardian’s history. In July, the Scott Trust commissioned research on the Guardian’s founding moments to identify any connections – direct or indirect – with the slave trade. The work will be carried out independently by the University of Nottingham’s Institute for the Study of Slavery, and will investigate any links between the Guardian’s founder, John Edward Taylor, his associates, their investments and/or business activities with historical transatlantic slavery.
These commitments build on work we have already done. In December 2019, we released our first UK ethnicity pay gap report – one of only a small number of media organisations to do so. The ethnicity pay report is an extension of the yearly reporting we already do on our gender pay gap reporting and identifies key areas of focus.
We have continued the important work of our employee-led diversity and inclusion forum to secure a consistent and strategic approach to drive real change across the business. This year, we signed up to the Business in the Community Race at Work charter, implementing the five calls to action. In January, we held our second diversity and inclusion week in the UK, attended by more than one-third of employees, and provided virtual events, training and learning opportunities – all aimed at cultivating a working environment that celebrates and supports difference in all its forms.
Mental health and wellbeing has also been a key focus for us at the Guardian, particularly in response to the uncertainty and change brought on by the pandemic. In May, we held a week of events and workshops to mark Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and have since launched new workshops on mental health for line managers and employees across the organisation. We continue to provide free employee assistance programmes in the UK, US and Australia, and on-demand resources to promote strong mental health.
Our environmental impact
We show our commitment to tackle the climate crisis in three key ways – through sustained world-leading environmental journalism; through measuring our own carbon emissions and by working with our employees to make significant changes and lead by example. In January, we made global headlines announcing we would no longer accept advertising from fossil fuel extractive companies. Greta Thunberg, Naomi Klein, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and Global Witness publicly supported our landmark decision and readers were delighted when we told them the news.
In October 2020, we announced new climate commitments and launched further editorial and business initiatives, including a climate data dashboard. Our climate plan has been informed by a full audit of greenhouse gas emissions from Guardian Media Group’s direct and indirect emissions, with newspaper production and our print supply chain the biggest contributors to the Guardian’s carbon footprint. We renewed our environmental commitments in a letter to readers, with an ambitious business goal of eliminating at least two-thirds of our total emissions by 2030. In 2020, our employee sustainability forum supported the development of our Climate Pledge 2020 and our promise to prioritise the escalating climate crisis in our journalism and our business decisions.
Our commitment to the environment has also been widely recognised. In 2020, the Guardian was awarded the first sustainability strategy of the year award at the Newspaper & Magazine Awards, in October we were named winner in the business transformation category at the Reuters Responsible Business Awards, and in November we won the prestigious BBVA Foundation Biophilia Award for Environmental Communication for the Guardian’s environmental reporting, which the foundation said had had a “transformative impact” in the global community.
Charity | The Guardian Foundation
Through the Scott Trust, our independent charity the Guardian Foundation supports media under threat, promotes diversity in the media and empowers children and young people to engage with the news. The charity envisions a world in which all people can tell their stories, access the truth and hold power to account.
In the last 12 months, the Guardian Foundation’s award-winning free news literacy project, in partnership with National Literacy Trust and PSHE Association, NewsWise, educated 2,563 children aged seven to 11 in 47 primary schools in disadvantaged areas across the UK. The results are inspiring – after taking part in the programme, twice as many pupils were able to tell whether a news story was real or fake (from 32.7% to 67.2%) and pupils were more than twice as likely to feel able to tell if a news source was trustworthy (33.3% to 82.8%).
In response to school closures as a result of coronavirus, NewsWise created a family zone with activities, links, tips and advice to help families learn more about the news together, a series of teacher training webinars and the Happy News Project to help primary pupils transition back to school with a focus on wellbeing, with uplifting stories, teamwork, speaking and news writing. The programme was also recognised in Nesta’s 19 “Democracy Pioneers” awards, winning a £10,000 prize for their work to improve people’s understanding and experience of democracy in the UK.
From December to early March, more than 1,617 people came through the doors of the Guardian Education Centre, which runs inspirational news media workshops designed for schools, universities, teachers and families. During the pandemic we transitioned our workshops to digital and have delivered virtual learning to almost 300 people so far this academic year, providing resources, activities and ideas to teach and engage young people with news and journalism.
The Guardian Foundation announced the recipients of the 2020-21 Scott Trust bursary scheme and the winners of the Hugo Young and Young Hugo Award winners. The bursary recipients, Hibaq Farah, Weronika Strzyżyńska and Georgina Quach, are now studying for their journalism MAs at City, Goldsmiths and Sheffield universities respectively. Ian Johnston, a student from City University, won the 2020 Hugo Young award for his opinion piece ”A united Ireland might be convenient for some. But don’t we deserve something more exciting than convenience?”, which was published on theguardian.com. The winner of the Hugo Young Award was revealed by the Guardian editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, as part of an online video announcement hosted by Sonia Sodha, the chief leader writer at the Observer.
This year, a Young Hugo award was introduced for 16- to 18-year-old students who attended a Guardian Education Centre workshop in the previous year. Amy Rushton from Burnham Grammar school was announced as the winner of the first Young Hugo award for her article titled ”Hypocrisy and big business: how difficult is it to go green in a modern world?”, which was featured on the Guardian Education Centre website.
The foundation’s international media capacity-building programme continued to focus on Turkey and with Syrian journalists in exile across Europe, providing training, workshops, mini-grants and mentoring to 44 people. The foundation also once again supported the European press prize for excellence in journalism. The 2020 winners were unveiled via a virtual announcement in June.
The GNM Archive, which exists within the Guardian Foundation to preserve and share the history of the Guardian and Observer, has begun three new projects this year to engage different audiences with the collections. These externally funded initiatives include work with secondary school students and members of the University of the Third Age.
Participation levels in the foundation’s programmes were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic this year. Activities that would normally require a physical presence in our offices or overseas travel have been adapted to ensure participation is still possible and the charity can continue to make a meaningful impact.