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Thursday 19 February 2015

Oborne - Telegraph HSBC Spin Busted

Following the very public resignation of the universally respected Peter Oborne from the Telegraph, it might have been thought that the paper would stop and think before making any comment. But that thought would have been misplaced, as the Tel’s management wasted no time in attempting to put the boot in. Sadly for them, those pesky things called facts would appear to stand up Oborne’s case, not theirs.
Peter Oborne

We aim to provide all our commercial partners with a range of advertising solutions, but the distinction between advertising and our award-winning editorial operation has always been fundamental to our business. We utterly refute any allegation to the contrary … It is a matter of huge regret that Peter Oborne, for nearly five years a contributor to the Telegraph, should have launched such an astonishing and unfounded attack, full of inaccuracy and innuendo, on his own paper” said the Telegraph.

So there’s a distinction between advertising and the paper’s editorial operation, then? Not according to those who spoke to the team at BBC Newsnight (first item on yesterday evening’s programme, available to view HERE). Viewers will also see confirmation of my point about the infection of the Tel with the Mail’s style of selective reporting, of what Joshua Rozenberg described as the news desk deciding the story first.

That was when the Tel began on the slippery slope: Rozenberg resigned after his copy was changed, to include statements that were not true, but that made the story look more eye-catching. Chris Cook of Newsnight confirmed thatMore than a dozen current and recent Telegraph journalists have confirmed Mr Oborne's concerns that the newspaper has a particular problem maintaining the ‘Chinese walls’ that most newspapers keep between their advertising departments and the work of their journalists”.

The Tel disputes this. So Gordon Ramsay, who is a research fellow at the Media Standards Trust, has analysed the paper’s coverage of HSBC. Between February 9 and 15, the number of online articles on the Tel’s website mentioning the bank was 16. The Guardian published 71, the Mail 84. And it got worse.

The main subject of those 16 articles was, in 12 cases, politicians or their parties, and of the remainder, three were mainly about HMRC - an angle I pointed out yesterday. Only in one case was HSBC the main subject. And, on the day the story broke, February 9, the Tel carried no articles mentioning HSBC at all. Ramsay’s conclusion is straightforward.

These figures indicate that Peter Oborne’s criticisms of the Telegraph’s coverage of the scandal appear to be well founded. The Telegraph devoted far fewer articles to the subject than comparable UK news sources. Those articles that it did publish contained little or no investigation into the allegations levelled at HSBC, instead framing the issue as a matter of embarrassment or conflict among politicians, political parties, or public bodies”.

That also fits with the experiences of those who talked to Chris Cook. The Telegraph has been caught bang to rights. The profits may look good from the more remote Channel Islands, but the reputational damage to the brand resulting from the Barclay brothers’ stewardship, and Murdoch McLennan’s leadership, could be terminal.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

1 comment:

rob said...

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?"