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The demise of the Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, 18 February, 2015

“On 22 September Telegraph online ran a story about a woman with three breasts. One despairing executive told me that it was known this was false even before the story was published. I have no doubt it was published in order to generate online traffic, at which it may have succeeded. I am not saying that online traffic is unimportant, but over the long term, however, such episodes inflict incalculable damage on the reputation of the paper.”

So writes Peter Oborne, the former chief political commentator of the Telegraph. His account of the demise of a once-great newspaper is painful to read, but Why I have resigned from the Telegraph must be read by all who value press freedom. Before addressing the scandals that forced his hand, Oborne documents the small but significant erosions of standards in the newsroom:

“Solecisms, unthinkable until very recently, are now commonplace. Recently readers were introduced to someone called the Duke of Wessex. Prince Edward is the Earl of Wessex. There was a front page story about deer-hunting. It was actually about deer-stalking, a completely different activity. Obviously the management don’t care about nice distinctions like this. But the readers do, and the Telegraph took great care to get these things right until very recently.”

The abandonment of quality was quickly followed by a surrender of principle. Peter Oborne makes his case by citing examples of the paper’s cowardly response to the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and its own suppression of the HSBC scandal. Both are profoundly shocking. “A free press is essential to a healthy democracy,” Oborne says and he reminds us that, “There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.”

The greater tragedy here is that the perversion of the Telegraph is happening at a time when Vladimir Putin is demonstrating that the news is just one more tool to be perverted for propaganda and disinformation. The West needs truth tellers to defeat this assault on its values and the Telegraph should be in the front line defending us at this dangerous time. Thanks to the brave intervention of Peter Oborne, we now know what needs to be done to save the Telegraph from the enemies within.


Filed in: Freedom, London, Media • Tags: , , ,

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