You are here
Guardian editor-in-chief Judy Raymond looking ahead to greater things
A glance at the T&T Guardian today tells you something is different—earlier this year, the paper’s front page got a new design. Inside the newsroom, too, there have been changes in the past 12 months. Last week editor-in-chief Judy Raymond celebrated a year of being back at the T&T Guardian, where she was previously an editor from 1999-2005. In an interview, she looked back at the past year—and ahead at the T&T Guardian’s future.
Q: How do you feel about your first year at the helm? What have you accomplished?
A: It’s been hectic, but I’ve enjoyed every day of it. It’s been a year of change for everyone in the newsroom, not just me. I hope readers can see the difference in the paper, but actually a lot of what I’ve worked on so far is simply going back to basics. We’re focusing on new media more, of course, and you’ll be seeing some of the results of that very soon.
But a lot of this year has been spent in reinforcing some Guardian traditions: solid, sober reporting and analysis, good design and clear, straightforward writing, and of course going after some big stories—Section 34, the Flying Squad, Hafizool Mohammed’s CV, and so on. We’ve been building a team. And the editorial leadership is giving more thought to who we’re writing for and what they need from their newspaper.
What do you think those needs are? Who is the Guardian reader?
Guardian readers are thinking people. They don’t want sensationalism, they want the facts. They want a certain quality of life, and not only for themselves, but also for other people. They’re concerned about the state of the country—and not just the political landscape, but also the environment. They want transparency and accountability in public affairs and they want us to help achieve that, by putting intelligent questions to the powers that be and persisting until we get answers.
These days the politicians invest a lot of money in communications, putting their own spin on events and getting their messages across. I think it’s crucial for our readers’ sake and the paper’s sake that we set our own agenda, filter out the fluff, dig more deeply. Also, today’s readers don’t want to have to sift through 100 stories for the interesting stuff, or plod through an epic to find the good bits. They don’t have the time, and they’re suffering from an information overload.
What they need, as our new slogan says, is news that’s “Right. To the Point.” That is, it’s accurate, objective and concise.
Are you aiming to make the Guardian the No 1 paper?
Of course. Definitely. If I were to sum up what I’m here for, that’s it. Not in terms of sales, but in quality, and I think we’re well on the way to that. It’s definitely not just about selling as many papers as possible. For example, a few weeks ago, the other daily papers ran a front-page photo of the head of a murdered man who had been decapitated.
I’m proud to say we didn’t even consider using those pictures. If that meant we sold fewer papers than they did, so be it. We’re about setting standards. That’s one of the reasons we reintroduced a story on page one of the paper. The T&T Guardian is no longer a broadsheet, but it’s definitely not a tabloid.
So what is your vision for the T&T Guardian, then?
It’s not radically different from the Guardian of the past, in many ways. The T&T Guardian has a very special place in this country. You just have to look at the overwhelming response to our special 1962 Independence publication last year. The Guardian has a lot of respect and authority, as you would expect from a paper with very nearly a century of history behind it, and I’m very conscious that that reputation and that power must be treated carefully and responsibly.
We need to keep the best things about the paper, but also update them so that it meets the needs of the 21st-century reader.
Talking of the 21st century, how is the T&T Guardian coping with the threat from new media?
Oh, we don’t think of it as a threat, although it’s certainly a challenge. Since I came back I’ve personally live-tweeted two events—one of them was Carnival Monday. I loved it. That was journalism too—pretty concentrated journalism, since you only have 140 characters to do it in. And like any other form of writing, yes, anyone can do it—but training, talent and experience make an important difference.
New media get the news out there faster, but people still turn to the mainstream media to confirm it. We have the credibility, and the depth, the detail. We can explore the background and the implications for the future. Many of the fundamentals are still the same—getting it right, getting it on time and giving people what they need to know—even though we may now be delivering it to a reader’s phone or tablet instead of their doorstep.
Now that the first year is over, what are your plans for the coming year?
Training has always been the Achilles heel of local media houses, and the media have paid the price for that in terms of declining quality. I want to address that in a serious way. So the results will be visible in sharper writing, more in-depth reporting, more unique stories that our readers want to read—rather than whatever minister happens to be holding a press conference that day. We’ll continue the redesign of the paper, although the Guardian’s design is already the best in the market.
Our reporters will be doing more multimedia work. The Guardian has the advantage of being part of a network that also includes radio stations and of course our sister TV station, CNC3. So I want us to make use of that to offer opportunities to journalists who want to learn new skills and expand their range.
Then of course there’s the new frontier of digital media. We’re formulating a social-media strategy for the paper that will involve the whole newsroom, and there are some other big, exciting changes coming in that area that I can’t tell you about, sorry.
All of those things also involve helping our people discover and channel and make the most of their talents. I want to make the Guardian newsroom the best workplace in the business, where journalists are encouraged and supported by their peers, and ability and commitment are recognised. Probably not financially, unfortunately, because journalists in this country don’t get the money and the respect they deserve. But this isn’t a job that you do for the money.
Have you brought in a new team of journalists?
We have some carefully selected new people and we’re working on developing the talent we already had. So for instance we’ve strengthened our investigative team by bringing in one person, Denyse Renne, who’s working alongside Anika Gumbs-Sandiford. Denyse was previously a crime reporter here when I was running the daily paper. She got off to a flying start when she came back last year, with the Section 34 story.
We have brought in a whole troop of new columnists, though, to strengthen our commentary pages—some veterans like Maxie Cuffie, who always has something interesting and usually provocative to say, and new faces like Dr Dylan Kerrigan, who looks at current affairs with an anthropologist’s eye. We also needed to redress the gender balance, so we have several new women columnists. And newspapers are allowed to be fun sometimes! So some of them are light-hearted, like the effervescent Elsa Wrench in the Monday paper.
What do you enjoy most and least about the job?
Sadly I have a very low level of tolerance for meetings, and I hate bureaucracy. Sitting in a meeting just talking about doing something doesn’t make it happen. But being EIC is not just about bringing out tomorrow’s paper, so some meetings and some paperwork are necessary. Also it’s frustrating not having the time to write, but I’m hoping to make that happen.
What do I enjoy? Knowing the news before everyone else does. Breaking a big story—which we’ve done several times in the past year. Writing an editorial that sums up how the country feels. Producing a dramatic front page that gets the message across. Matching a story or a photographic assignment with the right person for the job.
A newspaper is an amazing thing. You have to build it from scratch every day, and when you begin, you don’t know how big it’s going to be or what you’re going to put in it. Worse yet, journalists are very individualistic, and as I’ve often said, trying to get them to work as a team is like herding cats.
But there’s a particular time in the evening as press time approaches when everyone is focused on their task: getting the final phone interview, re-angling a story, crafting a headline, cropping the photo, finishing building the page. And all that concentrated energy makes a kind of magic. There’s nowhere as exciting as a newsroom.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.