Friday, March 6, 2015

Our Kath

What do we know of Katharine Viner, the internal candidate voted through to interview stage as potential Guardian editor, in hustings run with the National Union of Journalists ?

She went to Ripon Grammar School, where, at 16, she bemoaned missing out on a chance to appear in a video for The Smiths' single, Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before. This featured Smiths fans wearing horn-rimmed glasses cycling round the streets of Salford behind their hero. Musical taste clearly didn't prevent her progress - she moved up to Head Girl, and represented the school in debating competitions, before going up to Pembroke College, Oxford, to read English.

Just before graduating, she won a competition to edit the Women's Pages of The Guardian, and decided journalism would be her career. She worked at Cosmopolitan, and then The Sunday Times (interviewing Andre Agassi and filing on the New Orleans' Mardi Gras) before rejoining The Guardian full-time in 1997, at the age of 26.

In her own time, she'd become fascinated by the Middle East, and spent most of her holidays in places like Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the West Bank; her brother joshed she'd become a "trauma tourist".

Hackery and the Middle East came together with the story of Rachel Corrie, the US activist killed by a bulldozer when trying to act as a human shield in the Gaza Strip. The Guardian published some of her emails back home, shortly after her death in 2003; Alan Rickman read them, took the idea of a play to the Royal Court, and Katharine became Alan's co-writer for "My Name Is Rachel Corrie", shaping other letters and emails supplied by the Corrie family. Katharine is still on the council of the Royal Court.

Katharine has worked for the Guardian in Australia and New York.  Her Twitter comments suggest an admiration for Idris Elba, a love of some sports as a spectator, and a fondness for the Yorkshire Dales. She still likes The Smiths.

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