Could Janine Gibson, left, succeed Alan Rusbridger as editor of the Guardian? Photo: Getty.
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Who will replace Alan Rusbridger at the Guardian?

We break down the runners and riders to be the next Guardian editor, as Alan Rusbridger announces his resignation after 20 years.

Alan Rusbridger has announced he is stepping down as editor of the Guardian. Who might replace him?

Janine Gibson

Janine Gibson, 42, is the early favourite. She runs the Guardian online, is based in London, and broke the Edward Snowden story while running Guardian US.

She got the Pulitzer last year,” one informed staff member told us, referring to her role in managing the Snowden leak. The story was the peak of her three-year tenure in charge of the publication’s US site, which she set up in 2011. American readers now account for a third of the paper’s traffic, and have helped propel them from a mid-level British broadsheet into an international brand.

She moved back to London this summer, taking over, having ran from 2008 to 2011. When she first made the move online the Guardian was a paper with a 380,000-strong circulation. Its print sales have since halved, while its website now attracts more than 100 million visitors.

In a popularity contest, she “might not actually win.”

Her status suggests she is Rusbridger’s preferred candidate. He already holds a “not insignificant” influence over the Scott Trust and his nomination will be crucial.

But Gibson will have to pass an “indicative if not binding” vote by the Guardian’s employees. She is not guaranteed to. In a popularity contest, she “might not actually win,” the staffer suggested. She is nevertheless “very, very talented and very driven”. The New York Times’ reported attempts to poach her earlier this year will likely help her case.

Katharine Viner

Kath Viner, 43, succeeded Gibson as the paper’s US editor this summer. She joined the Guardian in 1997, one year before Gibson, and soon became editor of the Saturday Weekend supplement.

She took over the features desk in 2006 before being appointed deputy editor in 2008, along with Ian Katz – the two were long considered Rusbridger’s most likely successors.

After sixteen years in London, Viner has spent the past eighteen months establishing the Guardian internationally. Last January she set up the paper’s highly successful Australian operation, making her and Gibson the two frontrunners to have set up an international branch.

You “can’t really argue with her track record,” suggested the staffer.

Ian Katz

The stalking horse in the race is Ian Katz, 47, Rusbridger’s long-time deputy who suddenly departed last year to take over BBC’s Newsnight.

“Until 18 months ago, he was going to be the editor – no questions asked.”

Katz was offered the role and reportedly asked Rusbridger, then 59, whether he would be standing down soon. Rusbridger offered no reply, telling him to take him the job.

That encounter ended Katz’s 23-year career at the paper. He rose from a reporter to become the paper’s New York correspondent in the 1990s before running G2 for eight years and then editing the paper’s Saturday and weekday editions.

“Until 18 months ago, he was going to be the editor – no questions asked.”

While Gibson took over in 2008, Katz set it up in 1998. He also ran point on the paper’s two greatest scoops before the NSA files: Wikileaks in 2010 and the phone hacking scandal in 2011.

Katz spent years developing the careers of many staffers. “Unlike the others he was always really good at building a group of people.” The “make-up of the staff has changed” since last summer, but if he chose to ran, “he would still have some friends”.

It is not, however, clear that he wants the job. He has only been at Newsnight for fifteen months, and is yet to turn around its ratings, reform the political interview or make a distinctive mark on the show. And his acrimonious split with Rusbridger has to make his appointment unlikely.

Jonathan Freedland

A third internal candidate is the paper’s long-serving columnist Jonathan Freedland, 47, now the paper’s “executive editor, Opinion”.

The new role, which he was handed over the summer, placed him above his fellow columnists and the paper's existing comment editor, and has led to him launching the Guardian’s “Journal”, a new section for features in the daily paper.

He is undeniably the “wildcard” – there is “not much of a management career” on his CV. But Rusbridger may have handed him the role “to set him up as a potential challenger”.

As with all his fellow frontrunners, Freedland came out of Oxford. He joined the Guardian in 1993, rejoining Katz after both had been graduate trainees at the short-lived Sunday Correspondent. Like Katz, he served as a US foreign correspondent in the 1990s (Freeland was in DC when Katz was in New York), but became a columnist rather than an editor.

His preference for writing is clear: he also publishes thrillers under the pseudonym Sam Bourne. But his recent promotion suggests he may in play.

Other candidates

Two dark horses are Emily Bell, 49 – Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism in New York, and Gibson's former boss at the Guardian, where she served as director of digital content for four years – and Emily Wilson, who succeeded Viner in Australia.

If the Scott Trust wanted an external candidate, they might consider Mark Thompson, David Rowan or Amol Rajan. Thompson, 57, is now CEO of the New York Times, having spent eight years running the BBC, but is unlikely to return to London so soon after leaving.

Rowan worked at the Guardian for many years before leaving to become the founding editor of Wired magazine's UK edition in 2009. Rajan, 31, was seven when Katz joined the paper, but has halted the Independent's print decline since taking over last year.

But Gibson and Viner seem to be the frontrunners, with Katz a stalking horse.

Harry Lambert is a staff writer and editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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