A form of fraud on the readers
February 17, 2015 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Why I have resigned from the Telegraph; an open letter by Peter Oborne, until now the chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph, alleging that the conservative-leaning British broadsheet has allowed advertisers to veto its editorial policy, a process which culminated in the suppression of stories about the recent tax avoidance scandal involving the HSBC bank, itself a major Telegraph advertiser.
posted by acb (42 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
My politics disagree, but I have a lot of respect for principled conservatives. That said, The Telegraph has been garbage for a long while in the main. Just a broadsheet Daily Mail.

But it's good to see people standing up for ethics in journalism, anyway.
posted by ambrosen at 12:44 PM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


My expectation was that Telegraph editorial policy was to keep quiet about whatever might be embarrassing for the Tories, double underlined if three months before a general election, which it is.
posted by biffa at 12:46 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I used to think that the Telegraph was the right-of-centre counterpart of the Guardian, i.e., a reasonably high-minded yet mainstream paper with its principles and a sense of integrity, or at least more so than the Murdoch papers. I am somewhat disappointed that this is not so.
posted by acb at 12:48 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


[See Eyes passim ad nauseum] as he refers to himself.

My expectation was that Telegraph editorial policy was to keep quiet about whatever might be embarrassing for the Tories

The Torygraph protects the interests of the Barclay Brothers above all else. The piece made me want to throw up a little in places (but that's my own politics - I find it hard to stomach reverence for the Upper Middle Class English Establishment) - but fair play to him for making a stand in the name of actual journalistic principles. He's right that a free press is a vital part of democracy.
posted by billiebee at 12:56 PM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oborne always seemed too good for the Torygraph... hope he finds a good home for further journalism
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:02 PM on February 17, 2015


I think a little more of the spotlight should be shone on the owners of the Telegraph, the secretive and rather nasty Barclay Brothers.
The Telegraph's only redeaming feature is it's crossword puzzle.
The brothers also own the Spectator another bastion of the Tory press where they have also slung their weight about.
posted by adamvasco at 1:04 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh and yeah I'd know how far the paper had fallen since the bond villain-ish Barclays had taken over.

And this from a Guardian article on the resignation

Before the HSBC revelations were published – by the Guardian and a range of other outlets including the BBC – and while discussions were continuing over the material, the bank put its advertising with the Guardian’s parent company, Guardian News & Media, “on pause”.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:05 PM on February 17, 2015


The Telegraph's only redeaming feature is it's crossword puzzle.

I was going to mention that two of the three regular readers of the paper I've known basically bought it for the crossword
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:06 PM on February 17, 2015


Peter Oborne, as well that other Peter, Hitchens, is one of the few Tories I got any time for. I may disagree with his politics, but he's honest, not afraid to be critical of his own side and he has some principles.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:09 PM on February 17, 2015


Thus proving that in the UK the newspaper editors have more integrity than they do in the USA.
posted by sotonohito at 1:12 PM on February 17, 2015


Corrupt, bought-out British conservative papers?!

Forshame!
posted by markkraft at 1:13 PM on February 17, 2015


Thus proving that in the UK the newspaper editors have more integrity than they do in the USA.

Heads Of Content, on the other hand...
posted by acb at 1:17 PM on February 17, 2015


Barclay Brothers? Is that like the Beagle Boys?
posted by ursus_comiter at 1:20 PM on February 17, 2015


Peter Oborne, as well that other Peter, Hitchens, is one of the few Tories I got any time for.

The latter doesn't, alas, stand up well alongside his late brother.
posted by acb at 1:20 PM on February 17, 2015


Those "why I resigned" letters are mostly actually "I was fired and now I'm angry" letters.
posted by w0mbat at 1:57 PM on February 17, 2015


My snarky view was that this is what corruption in journalism really looks like, not feminist criticism of your hobby, or the observation that you're not the most important market demographics.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:11 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


feminist criticism of your hobby

Cultural Marxism (n): the out-group getting all up in your privilege.
posted by acb at 2:15 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hitchens

Hitchens Minor has never struck me as a bad man, but he's just not very bright, is he? His defences of his own fundamental principles are so weak that it seems pretty clear he has an entirely sophomoric grasp of the issues involved. I feel a bit sorry for him. He's like a journalistic Paul Ross.
posted by howfar at 2:18 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh and yeah I'd know how far the paper had fallen since the bond villain-ish Barclays had taken over.

Black was hardly a great owner either. I used to read the paper (though not buy it!) around ten to fifteen years ago. There were some very dodgy opinion columns printed in that time, moreso around the Iraq War. (I really should thank Mark Steyn for giving me a good chuckle but making me realize that the war was garbage.)

Some of the articles back then, however, seemed to be of decent quality. Once you knew and kept in mind their politics you could simply get on with the facts. The Expenses Scandal was likely their last hurrah.
posted by Thing at 2:28 PM on February 17, 2015


Oh, and as billiebee hints, just read Private Eye and forget everything else. Unless you need some paper for potting on or polishing your shoes.
posted by Thing at 2:31 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm amused that HSBC suppressed the tax avoidance scandal in the UK. They gave pretty much no fucks about the money laundering for drug cartels scandal in the US.
posted by srboisvert at 2:32 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Black was hardly a great owner either.

“Conrad Black” sounds like a pseudonym the Devil would use when visiting Earth in a second-rate Master and Margarita knock-off.
posted by acb at 2:38 PM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


I had no idea the Telegraph was a right leaning paper. I only read the football coverage, though.
posted by josher71 at 3:07 PM on February 17, 2015


He's like a journalistic Paul Ross.

Oh, god, ouch.

I had no idea the Telegraph was a right leaning paper.

Twas ever the Torygraph. Since the Barclay Brothers though it's gone towards more of a US-style liberal-baiting reality-denying conservatism and away from the old harumphing retired Major genteel trad British small-c conservatism.

A good example of the rot has been their recent function as the "media partners" of the Saatchi Bill campaign - flat-out fact-free insanely-dishonest shilling for a truly awful cause. Oborne was the only one to dare write anything vaguely factual about it in their pages. Not sure how he'd lasted so long really.
posted by sobarel at 3:50 PM on February 17, 2015


When I joined the Telegraph had just broken the MPs’ expenses scandal, the most important political scoop of the 21st century.

Is that later part true? That the MPs' expenses scandal is THE most important political scoop of the 21st Century?

And if it's not true, can I just file under 'pompous ass' and ignore everything after?
posted by Neale at 4:20 PM on February 17, 2015


I went to wikipedia to read about the Barclay brothers and was amused that despite having (from what I can tell) nothing whatsoever to do with them, the one and only entry in the "See Also" section is "Koch Brothers".
posted by triggerfinger at 4:34 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is that later part true? That the MPs' expenses scandal is THE most important political scoop of the 21st Century?

Perhaps if you disqualify Snowden/Wikileaks et al. as treason.
posted by acb at 4:38 PM on February 17, 2015


Oborne is the only tory I respect. Matthew Parris sometimes, but that's it.
posted by Grangousier at 4:49 PM on February 17, 2015


Peter Oborne is excellent, regardless of one's political orientation. Definitely the best columnist at the Telegraph and one of the best in the UK. I'm eager to continue reading his work wherever he goes next.
posted by grounded at 4:56 PM on February 17, 2015


ambrosen: "ethics in journalism"

Caaaaaarefuuul.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:01 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Definitely the best columnist at the Telegraph

I'd contend that Alex Proud (who's sort of their Charlie Brooker) would be solid competition for that title.
posted by acb at 6:18 PM on February 17, 2015


I like Oborne, hopefully he'll keep writing elsewhere. He's philosophically a political conservative, but he's thoughtful and not really party partisan. For instance read his Spectator article on Ed Miliband. His 2008 book The Triumph of the Political Class is interesting (and depressing) too.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:34 PM on February 17, 2015


Have fortune, will travel offshore

THE job-slashing Telegraph group’s growing difficulty meeting its £60m-a-year profit target (see last Eye) risks becoming a threat to more than just its hapless hacks. Employees and members of a major pension scheme might be sweating too.

They depend on what the Eye has found is an increasingly financially engineered business empire, controlled by reclusive brothers David and Frederick Barclay.

Profits made by the Telegraph don’t stay in the UK for long. Latest accounts for the company that controls Telegraph Media Group, Press Acquisitions Ltd, show that in 2013 the bulk, £34.5m, was sent in the form of loans to a Jersey company, May Corporation Ltd, which through another Jersey company is owned by a Bermudian company called B.UK. Ltd, itself controlled by trusts set up by the brothers...

...The Telegraph group isn’t the only Barclay-controlled business being stripped of cash...

posted by Nevin at 10:31 PM on February 17, 2015


acb -I used to think that the Telegraph was the right-of-centre counterpart of the Guardian, i.e., a reasonably high-minded yet mainstream paper with its principles and a sense of integrity, or at least more so than the Murdoch papers. I am somewhat disappointed that this is not so.

I believe this used to be true. In fact, I trusted their news reporting more than I trusted the Times, which works the Murdoch and various other agendas into the news articles.

The Telegraph used to be good reporting, plus the obvious "retired Colonel in Hampshire"-baiting articles and op-eds that you could identify and skip. I think that this changed with the ownership change, which both stripped back assets and asserted a more aggressive agenda. Now it is a clownshow, and the only paper I will read is the Guardian/Observer and the FT.

The Telegraph's only redeaming feature is it's crossword puzzle.

Not true. The obituaries have always been awesome, and should continue to be until the last veteran of World War II passes.
posted by C.A.S. at 1:59 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Harry's Place covered this story, and they picked up on something that Oborne glided over:
I’d add that Oborne’s piece on Interpal and UWT were a disgrace and whitewash. These are charities which exist to funnel money to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Oborne defends them because he’s a partisan supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. I suspect that what motivates Oborne in his affection for these organisations is part genuine belief in the virtue of their politics, and part admiration for the fact that they’re fighting the Jews. Ditto his perspective on Iran and its nuclear programme and his Dispatches on the Israel Lobby.
Whether you agree with the commentator's position or not, it's pretty obvious that Oborne could have provided some context, but failed to do so. Here's what he said:
Late last year I set to work on a story about the international banking giant HSBC. Well-known British Muslims had received letters out of the blue from HSBC informing them that their accounts had been closed. No reason was given, and it was made plain that there was no possibility of appeal. "It’s like having your water cut off," one victim told me.
OK, who were the "well-known British Muslims"? By following the link to his original article we learn that one recipient was Anas Altikriti and another was the Finsbury Park Mosque.

I don't know anything about the other recipients, but Anas Altikriti is described as "President and founder of the Cordoba Foundation, a UK-based lobby group for the Muslim Brotherhood". The Finsbury Park Mosque is notorious enough that I, a non-Muslim in Australia have heard of it; not just because of its links to terror, but because of its frankly racist and homophobic sermons. I don't know whether the other names on Oborne's list can also be linked to terror-supporting organisations, but that's a badly-needed bit of context that would go a long way to explaining HSBC's actions.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:49 PM on February 18, 2015


The Harry's Place commentator also reckons 'that HSBC is in Oborne’s cross-hairs primarily [my bold] because he disagrees with their risk based decision to stop providing banking services to people with clear jihadist connections', and that Oborne will 'shortly announce his move to Al Jazeera'. So I think it's likelier that the commentator is a single-issue paranoid axe-grinder and that Oborne didn't provide extenuating context for those three sentences because he's out to cast an unflattering light on HSBC and the Telegraph management.
posted by Mocata at 3:47 AM on February 19, 2015


Some figures on the Telegraph's coverage of HSBC, which largely bear out Oborne's allegations.

More Telegraph writers corroborate Oborne's allegations and add to them. It seems that the culture of editorial interference was so pervasive that the editors even fiddled the ratings of films whose studios advertised in the Telegraph.
posted by acb at 5:58 AM on February 19, 2015


I think it's likelier that the commentator is a single-issue paranoid axe-grinder and that Oborne didn't provide extenuating context for those three sentences because he's out to cast an unflattering light on HSBC and the Telegraph management.

Yeah, on reconsideration I think you're probably right on both counts. Also, suppressio veri, suggestio falsi is a much greater offense when committed by management than by an individual reporter.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:26 PM on February 19, 2015


Oh look what they found !
Barclay brothers secured loan for loss-making company shortly before Telegraph reporters were allegedly discouraged from running articles critical of HSBC
posted by adamvasco at 3:15 PM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's their unsatisfactory response.
posted by ambrosen at 12:07 AM on February 20, 2015


It's not just unsatisfactory, it's pissweak and fucking risible. It reads like a Private Eye parody of a Telegraph leader, or like a first year university essay finished off the midnight before it's due, before you head out to the SU to get pissed on cider. It's like they missed off the final paragraph because they realised that trying to explain why being beholden to their advertisers is a good thing was just too much bother for too little effort.

Embarrassing.
posted by howfar at 1:40 PM on February 20, 2015


Oh, it gets worse. They've not only kept digging but redoubled their efforts.

Firstly they ran an anonymous story vaguely asserting that the Guardian has compromised editorial content to please Apple, and then a piece about suicides among News UK staff, also clumsily attempting to make that into a “see, everyone's corrupt” story.
posted by acb at 5:06 PM on February 20, 2015


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