News & events

10 minutes with… Alex Hern, UK technology editor, The Guardian

In our final ‘10 minutes with’ before the summer break, Hern tells us about the impact of Edward Snowden’s revelations on technology and the world, The Guardian’s exciting new tech newsletter and his strict gym and gin routine…

How did you get into journalism?

In the distant past of the early 10s, it was possible to be a "blogger" as a profession. I started writing for Left Foot Forward and was hired by the New Statesman to run their economics blog.

Why does journalism matter?

Without journalism, our view of the world – even our very understanding of the truth – is shaped by what those with power want us to know.

Best scoop (yours or someone else’s)? 

Nothing in my career has even come close to matching how consequential the Snowden revelations were. It's hard to imagine how wildly different the world would be if that leak hadn't destroyed trust between the state and tech, just as the sector was on the verge of its post-crash boom.

What are you working on right now? 

I'm launching TechScape, the Guardian's flagship tech newsletter. In a way, it's back to my roots: newsletter culture today is very close to what blogging could have become if the rise of social media hadn't fundamentally killed the field.

Career highlight so far? 

Winning Technology Journalist of the Year at the 2020 Press Awards, for a series of stories including Apple spying on users of Siri and TikTok's Chinese moderation guidelines. Unfortunately, it was also the very first event that I had that was cancelled due to Covid!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? 

"Whilst" means the same thing as "while" but makes you sound like an idiot.

Who or what inspires you most? 

It's cheesy, but my partner is a management consultant, and – particularly since the pandemic hit, and we were shoved in the same home office for 15 months – watching her work is just a stunning kick up the backside

Who would be your fantasy dinner party guests and why? 

I've always found this one weird. If I invited all the people I idolise, I assume they'd have a whale of a time with each other and wonder who the weirdo in the corner was. But hey, Charlie Brooker and Konnie Huq seem nice enough, so maybe them?

How do you switch off from work?

My daughter's four months old now, and the single best thing about the last year has been the fact that working from home means all I have to do is stand up and cross the hallway to be with her, instantly forgetting about work. And I've been playing a lot of videogames.

Gym or gin? 

Gotta be strict: gym three evenings a week and gin the other four.

If I wasn’t a journalist, I would be…

My heart says I'd be a fantastically successful lawyer. My head says I'd probably be an awful politician's researcher.


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