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Friday, 28 October 2011

Telegraph Fails Quality Test

It is the last in the line to publish in broadsheet format every day of the week, but the Telegraph long ago ceased to be a paper of record: inability to separate news and comment is part of that, as is the unrelenting drive downmarket, fuelled by bouts of cheque-book journalism, phoney “exclusives” (the St Paul’s “thermal imaging” tale, since debunked, being the latest), and sleb tat.

But on Wednesday October 26, the Telegraph hit a new low, one which even the Daily Mail might shy away from: the use of a pejorative headline in introduction to its lead front page story. So, in signposting a report on employment rights that had been submitted to 10 Downing Street, the banner text thundered “Give Firms Freedom To Sack Their Slackers”.

Now, some Telegraph readers might agree with the sentiment, but that is not the point. This is an example of giving the conclusion before the story, in the style of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). It’s the front page lead. And the lamentably bad journalism doesn’t stop there: all that is shown of the “leaked report” behind the story is its first two pages.

So all that readers get to see is a one page introduction, and the first part of an executive summary, covering the subject of Unfair Dismissal. But, as the preface to that summary tells, “This report looks at a number of different areas of employment law and makes detailed recommendations for change in most of them”. So why not publish the whole report?

Moreover, no mention is made of whether or not this report had any significance, nor whether author Adrian Beecroft was given a formal commission to write it – rather than Young Dave being pestered about employment law and replying along the lines of “that’s interesting, write me something on the subject”. Beecroft is, it is conceded, a Tory Party donor, to the tune of more than half a million notes since 2006.

He is also a venture capitalist, which begs the question of how he manages his duties while being so knowledgeable on the public sector, where he believes that unfair dismissal rules are being abused. Perhaps Adrian Beecroft is versatile enough to be able to know the public sector as well as the private? Well, he did spend five years at ICL, and they had many public sector clients.

But that ended in 1974. And since 1984, he’s been doing venture capital work pretty solidly. The more one looks at this “report”, the more it appears that it hasn’t been written in response to a formal commission, has zero chance of being acted on, and that the Telegraph is unwilling to let us see most of its contents.

Which rounds off this piece of shamefully bad hackery from a paper constantly confirming its move downmarket. Another one for the bin.


newsframes said...

Nice job. Of course, anyone with an opinion can write something and call it a "report". Getting it onto the front page of a national newspaper is a different matter. I wrote about this Telegraph headline story from a different angle (framing) here: http://newsframes.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/how-not-to-frame-workers/

Anonymous said...

The headline is not the paper expressing an opinion but saying what the report says. This is very clear when you look at the online edition's headline, where there is more space: "Give firms freedom to sack unproductive workers, leaked Downing Street report advises"

Tim Fenton said...

@2, in that case, the paper should ensure that readers know that this comes from the report. No effort was made to do this, which is unforgivable in a supposedly quality title.

Fart Sniffer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim Fenton said...

Another anonymous troll brings comment moderation nearer.

Fart Sniffer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim Fenton said...

I refer the less than honourable troll to the reply I gave earlier.