‘A form of fraud on its readers.’

Commercial interests came before good journalism, that’s Peter Oborne’s argument.

His resignation from the Daily Telegraph will get limited coverage. [And indeed, nine months on, the story is long forgotten.] Not least, newspapers could be worried that similar accusations could be made against them. Oborne has accused the paper of  a ‘form of fraud on its readers’ for its coverage of HSBC and its Swiss tax-dodging scandal. He’s claimed the paper did not give due prominence to the HSBC story because of commercial interests. The OpenDemocracy website is where his full statement is to be found.

Oborne told Channel 4 News he believed he spoke ‘for the vast majority of Telegraph staff’ in saying he had no confidence in Murdoch McLennan, the paper’s chief executive, and the Barclay brothers who own the paper. (I’m quoting from the BBC website.)

For my part I’ve never trusted the Barclay brothers, the Telegraph’s owners. I remember how disparaging Bill Deedes, long-time Telegraph editor, was about them. In an age when circulations are falling rapidly it’s people with big money and personal bandwagons to ride who can afford to handle the risk and live with the losses. The Telegraph’s most famous bandwagon was the 2009 expenses scandal, which they milked to do maximum damage. I will desist from saying more here – but it was a disreputable piece of journalism.

The sad thing is that in many ways the Telegraph is a great paper – for features and review coverage and sport. I don’t trust its political coverage, but I allow for that when I read a story. And I now know the way advertisers can influence the paper: some stories will hardly get a look in, some (I assume) may not even be reported…

The truth can be bent in so many ways. Is withholding, so we can’t even make a judgement, worse than telling lies? We are of course, all of us, economical with the truth in our daily lives. We all withhold. But newspapers are by definition public. A different standard applies.

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