Now some, not Eli to be sure, have wondered about the Telegraph. Today we need not wonder any more. Peter Oborne the chief political commentator of the Telegraph has resigned, (yeah yeah not Osborne) and pulled back the curtain from that corner of oz. Although as he writes, things have always been a bit off at the Telegraph, they have become downright suspicious ever since the paper was bought by the Barclay Brothers.
Well, think the Koch brothers, but with less of a sense of shame and more of entitlement.
Oborne details many stories where the commercial interests of the papers advertisers determined what did or did not appear in the paper. The recent treatment of HSBCs troubles with the tax authorities in several countries but particularly the UK and Switzerland was the last straw but
The reporting of HSBC is part of a wider problem. On 10 May last year the Telegraph ran a long feature on Cunard’s Queen Mary II liner on the news review page. This episode looked to many like a plug for an advertiser on a page normally dedicated to serious news analysis. I again checked and certainly Telegraph competitors did not view Cunard’s liner as a major news story. Cunard is an important Telegraph advertiser.Oborne continues and Eli ends
The paper’s comment on last year’s protests in Hong Kong was bizarre. One would have expected the Telegraph of all papers to have taken a keen interest and adopted a robust position. Yet (in sharp contrast to competitors like the Times), I could not find a single leader on the subject.
At the start of December the Financial Times, the Times and the Guardian all wrote powerful leaders on the refusal by the Chinese government to allow a committee of British MPs into Hong Kong. The Telegraph remained silent. I can think of few subjects which anger and concern Telegraph readers more.
On 15 September the Telegraph published a commentary by the Chinese ambassador, just before the lucrative China Watch supplement. The headline of the ambassador’s article was beyond parody: ‘Let’s not allow Hong Kong to come between us’. On 17 September there was a four-page fashion pull-out in the middle of the news run, granted more coverage than the Scottish referendum. The Tesco false accounting story on 23 September was covered only in the business section. By contrast it was the splash, inside spread and leader in the Mail. Not that the Telegraph is short of Tesco coverage. Tesco pledging £10m to fight cancer, an inside peak at Tesco’s £35m jet and ‘Meet the cat that has lived in Tesco for 4 years’ were all deemed newsworthy.
I duly went to see the chief executive in mid-December. He was civil, served me tea and asked me to take off my jacket. He said that I was a valued writer, and said that he wanted me to stay.
I expressed all of my concerns about the direction of the paper. I told him that I was not leaving to join another paper. I was resigning as a matter of conscience. Mr MacLennan agreed that advertising was allowed to affect editorial, but was unapologetic, saying that “it was not as bad as all that” and adding that there was a long history of this sort of thing at the Telegraph. (emphasis added)
I have since consulted Charles Moore, the last editor of the Telegraph before the Barclays bought the paper in 2004. Mr Moore confessed that the published accounts of Hollinger Inc, then the holding company for the Telegraph, did not receive the scrutiny they deserved. But no newspaper in history has ever given an unfavourable gloss on its owner’s accounts. Beyond that, Mr Moore told me, there had been no advertising influence on the paper’s news coverage.There are bridges to be sold in Brooklyn, and evidently buyers.