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Saturday 18 July 2020

The Guardian’s Credibility Problem

As the fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic spreads, so newspapers, whether in print or online forms, feel the effects. That fallout has now spread to the Guardian, which has announced a swingeing round of job cuts, with whole sections of the Saturday edition to disappear completely. It is the last surviving quality title untainted by proprietorial interference and associated business interest. But then, but then.
Kath Viner, editor, the Guardian

Friends and colleagues ask one another the question: should one not become a subscriber to the paper, make a regular payment as recompense for all that content put out there without a paywall? Should one not give a hand to make sure one title, at least, understands the separation of news and comment, upholds decent standards?
Alan Rusbridger - a legacy swept away ...

Yet I find the idea of standing unequivocally behind today’s Guardian troubling, not because of the standard of its journalism, but because the paper of today is not that of a decade ago. There have been too many concessions to the media establishment, too many let-downs for those who put their faith in the people from Kings Place.
... no more of these glorious headlines ...

At the start of the decade, under Alan Rusbridger’s editorship, the paper that had begun its journey under his tenure by exposing the deeply unpleasant Neil Hamilton was still going where no other paper would go: it had broken the phone hacking scandal, and before our eyes the Murdoch mafiosi, caught like so many rabbits in the headlights, were for a brief but glorious moment powerless. That would not happen today.
... no successor to Nick Davies ...

There is no successor to Nick Davies; indeed, there is no longer support for the victims of press misbehaviour, and with this stance no campaigner for proper press regulation can agree. My information is that the Guardian’s management would rather not be ostracised by its press peers for breaking the code of Omertà. No more being cat-called or even spat on at press gatherings. And then there were the Snowden revelations.
... no more watching the Screws implode ...

Today’s Guardian would not go out on a limb and find itself leaned upon by the spooks to destroy some of its computers. No more Edward Snowden, no more Laura Poitras, no more standing behind David Miranda over being held by the spooks at Heathrow.
... and no more Steve Bell

Then there is the paper’s bewildering coverage of the Labour Party during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The paper that backed Ed Miliband, and now backs Keir Starmer, was seemingly unable to give Corbyn a fair hearing. As Daniel Finn put it, this appeared to be a political choice: “the Guardian started off reporting on Corbyn's leadership from the perspective of his inner-party opponents, and it never really broke that habit. Comment wasn't exactly free, but more importantly, facts were scarce”.
And now we read that the paper is to part company with Steve Bell, one of the great political cartoonists and a worthy successor to the likes of William Hogarth. Bell will leave the Guardian after 39 years’ service. Thus another reason why today’s paper is not the Guardian that so many of its potential readers remember, and would pay to read.

Yes, the journalism retains its high standard, which only goes to show the lamentable quality of the opposition. But there is also the knowledge for those of us who followed the paper’s exposure of Fleet Street’s dark arts, that it will never pass that way again. It is those people to whom, I fear, Kath Viner would rather not listen. Which is a terrible pity.


Anonymous said...

Good riddance to THIS version of the Graun. My pity is reserved for the innocents.

Did the redundants - like all the other millions now falling victim - really think they'd be left alone if they kept their heads down and said nothing as corruption lapped around their shoes? Did they REALLY think capitalism wouldn't arrive sooner or later on their doorstep bearing an acid smile, an invoice, and a P45?

Areas that thought themselves invulnerable have now discovered - as predicted - they have been taken for mugs. Jeering at long-attacked dissident areas no longer saves them. Chickens have come home to take full advantage of the cv-19 feed at their expense. That's the way the capitalist farm yard works.

the Graun? Just another very minor expendable casualty. But now there's nowhere in Britain to flee to. No escaping from the fact that they brought it on themselves. So shuffle into the dole queue like everyone else, apply for Universal Credit, and eat crow for breakfast, dinner and tea. You had it coming.

Anonymous said...

No more Steve - :(

The Guardian's politics really since 2010 seem more US centrist than actual British left-wing. Sure they'll publish articles about social issues but they're nearly always of the 'Middle-class person talks about their problems' type and very rarely do they actually talk to us peasants at length. John Harris being an honourable exception.

Which is baffling really as the easy way to stamp on any 'Huh de hurr Guardianista elitists' attacks is to make the paper more reflective of the population at large. Let's hear from feminists in Chorley or lads studying engineering from Moss Side or have some proper columns from poor and working-class activists.

Now is really the time when we need a newspaper producing actual news and challenging the power structures. Don't stuff this up, Guardian.

Anonymous said...

I thought you had been captured by Viner Tim, but no, the penny has dropped.

Alan said...

If Bell is going, that's my lot. Unfortunately, my current vouchers run for nearly three months, and are already with the newsagent.

Bell is one of the few decent people left on the rag, and probably the only one not to cave to the false "antisemitism" narrative. Even Chakrabortty and Younge (when he was there) folded on that. The only decent thing in the Graun on Starmer's sacking of Long-Bailey was his cartoon showing Keeves sacking the downstairs lady's maid.

I presume that Freedland, Toynbee, Harris, Kettle and the rest of the centrist shower of shite will keep their jobs.

I started reading the Graun in 1984, when my trade union asked for a boycott of the Wapping rags. Tie, perhaps, for the NUJ, etc. to ask for a boycott of Viner's bum paper.

Anonymous said...

The Guardian spent so much time and effort attempting to appeal to Americans that it forgot what its core British readership wanted. Its ended up pushing a Democratic centerist economic agenda that nobody on the British Left backs, while also importing extreme US style identity politics, alienatinghuge numbers of its British readers in the process. Rather than slash the Saturday edition it should abandon its US operation and its massive number of "opinionators" and get back to doing what it was best at, serious investigative journalism.

Nigel Stapley said...

Don't get too starry-eyed about the Graun under Rusbridger. It was then that the rag was given access to the Wikileaks documents, won kudos and awards for its coverage...and then spent the next few years with its hacks betraying their source and its columnists defaming and smearing Julian Assange.

As it was New Labour's house organ, so it will be for the Starm-troopers dragging Labour back into centre-right irrelevance.

Johnspartacusanonymous said...

The ineffable twerp Hadley Freeman always narks me. Will still look at it online, wouldn't pay for it.

Anonymous said...

I note that Heffer in the Telegraph is using the news as an excuse to attack 'cancel culture' while the JCL and Seaman Staines are using it as an opportunity to mention accusations of racisma and anti-semitism.

As far as I'm concerned, Steve was the heart and soul of The Guardian. I first became aware of the paper when I was 12 during the Falklands War and my peers at school talked of his strips in the hushed awe had been reserved for The Young Ones and that we later greeted Crass' 'Sheep Farming in the Falklands'. Is Viner ignorant of the symbolism or does she just not care?

Mark White said...

For over 50 years The Guardian has been the only national newspaper I’ve read regularly. But for the last 10 years or so I wouldn’t have bothered but for the fact that I can get a free copy from my local supermarket. Though there is still the occasional article that is worth reading, I can’t agree with your claim that the standard of its journalism remains high. The paper’s relentless character assassination of Corbyn, its entirely unsupported claim that antisemitism is rife in the Labour Party, its betrayal of Julian Assange and its hysterical pro-EU fundamentalism are the antitheses of good journalism – and if I want insight or enlightenment, there are plenty of other websites that can provide it, including this one.

As for the newspapers supposed freedom from proprietorial interference, while there may not be a Murdoch or a Rothermere pulling the strings, the Guardian board is overwhelmingly rich, overwhelmingly middle class and overwhelmingly white, and is made up entirely of members who are involved with other big corporations and who are either members of the 1% or represent the interests of the 1%. In other words, it is just as tied to the interests of liberal capitalism as the Daily Mail or the Sun.

Then there’s the legend “Comment is Free” – surely proof that satire isn’t dead when you can have an innocuous comment removed simply because it challenges the views of the Guardian politburo. But for me the last straw was the paper’s wretched failure to challenge the ludicrous conspiracy theory that two Russian GRU agents spent a night in a London hotel taking drugs and cavorting with prostitutes, took a train to Salisbury the next day with a rucksack containing two scent bottles full of a nerve agent 10 times more dangerous than any other known chemical, approached the victim’s house in broad daylight and then sprayed the front door handle without using any protective gear. The victim and his daughter then leave the house, both of them touching the outside door handle, and four hours later collapse in a park at exactly the same time. And despite the fact that there were CCTV cameras in the park, no pictures are ever released. Once a newspaper starts to insult its readers intelligence, as the Guardian has done in this and many other instances instances, it’s finished.

The Captain said...

Tremendous stuff

Anonymous said...

No one reads us, we don't care.

Andy Foster said...

Thanks Tim. This needed saying. I've been reading the Guardian since schooldays fifty years ago. It never had the courage of its convictions and was far too fond of the Liberals, but it was still my paper. (I'm still a member of CAMRA because of 'Boston on Beer'.) I didn't think Alan Rusbridger was good, but never thought his successor could be so much worse.

Under Viner it attacked Corbyn time after time. Freedland and Cohen endlessly. Cohen's "fucking fools" piece (quote) was the worst, but Marina Hyde's attack on Corbyn bringing in everything including his brother deserves a dishonourable mention. Worse still were its policy changes. It has deliberately and completely excluded an alternative narrative about anti-semitism which is credible and widely supported. The right-wing press were able to pin anti-semitism on Corbyn because the Guardian went along with them. It has stopped criticising academy schools, the biggest right-wing policy change of the last decade. Its economics reporting has only stayed credible because of Larry Elliott, and it will be interesting to see if he survives the cuts.

It is run by a little clique of Oxford educated metropolitan middle class centrists. It's astonishing just how many of its leading lights went to that one university: Freedland, Harris, Kettle, Hyde, Williams, Freeman, Bennett, Hirsch, even Aditya Chakrabortty and Owen Jones. And of course Viner herself. I've never seen anything so incestuous. 'Cherwell' for mature students. Steve Bell was one of the few reasons to keep looking at it. I have an interest to declare because in 1976 I was on the same PGCE course as 'Big Steve' and our little departmental magazine had such good cartoons we sold out and reprinted. Followed him ever since.

The Guardian was once the paper of James Cameron, David McKie (who I think is still with us), Keith Harper, and lots more. It makes you weep.

Sam said...

Did the Guardian really, truly think there would be no blow back for getting into bed with the Blairites and decimating Corbyn from every angle and thus destroying the dreams of a better life for at least 10 million plus Brits (maybe millions more except for the Brexit stance shambles)and aiding in the election of the rotten Boris?
Now so soon after they beg for money. But not a word on getting rid of some of their overpaid pundits whose treachery is legendary. Take Owen Jones for example: clever and erudite but endlessly castigating Corbyn until the 2017 election at which time he switched sides when Blind Freddy could have seen how popular Corbyn was.
It demands to be saved yet offers no vision or promise to be fair in the future,no guarantees to it's readers it will be by-partisan, just arrogantly asks to be saved while a coterie of Corbyn haters line up to smugly proclaim you take the Guardian as it is or else.
Sometimes things have to get really bad before they get better (Brexit ? ). If The Guardian goes it's it's own fault. What will be left is a vast ratbag right wing coterie of gutter tabloids including the so-called "quality" titles which are already rapidly declining which will attack each other's readership in a feeding frenzy.
And haven't heard one Guardian "name" writer offer to take a cut in salary so young journalists can be employed.
What the Guardian has done for years is present a great looking publication with excellent articles but every time, it decimates the dreams of so many with unwarranted and disgraceful attacks on socialism and those millions who vote for it. And very smugly too.

david walsh said...

I'll be the grinch here. All of us rise and decline. And Steve Bell has, I feel, declined. I first came across him in the defunct Leveller mag where he did a good bearded man in the sky as OMG. Then the Guardian, happily arriving in the same month as the Falklands fiasco, so got "argie baries" Captain Jack Middletar and the penguins. Onwards and upwards. But now ? All seems a bit formulaic, too much "on line" to passing trends. I know that grinding to produce a strip and a series of op ed cartoons is grim work - esp in todays climate with the lawyers n one side and the faddists on the other, looking for a skip to seize on. I think he might secretly enjoy the rest and then come back somewhere his old self

Martin Read said...

One would have to be blind not to have felt the downward drag of its political reporting. Still, until recently, it stood head and shoulders clear of much of the alternatives.

But then there were the dealings with the Corbyn years, when it was as if the floor had been whipped away. Particularly painful was were the column inches afforded to the 'anti-Semite' brigade. Jonathan Freedland became very much of the tabloid mould and mere rumours (Racael Riley, Margaret Hodge, Angela Eagle) were treated suddenly as given fact, yet never substantiated!

Labour has lost tremendous ground in recent years, in which dealings the Guardian has featured substantially. The UK media is currently under fire (BBC, Channel 4), and we should be far more concerned than seems generally evident.

graceandfavor said...

I live in the U.S. and I always wondered why The Guardian was/is so consumed with U.S. news. It's not even my "go to" source. There's The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, etc.

N said...

What I particularly find rather infuriating is all the people telling us that 'the Guardian is the only paper that isn't against you, so buy it or the entire media will be against you!' Considering transgender people already live in a country where none of the media whatsoever supports them or refrains from bullying them, and transgender people just about manage, maybe it's time we all experienced that same country.

Perhaps then we'll all understand things more clearly.

Anonymous said...


Surely not. Surely the former executive editor of the opinion section of The Guardian wouldn't write "It’s clear that a number of people believe Rowling should not be included in such statements, that her views have placed her outside the bounds of acceptable discourse. As it happens, the letter speaks of this phenomenon when it describes 'a vogue for public shaming and ostracism.' It seems the Harper’s letter might be a rare example of the reaction to a text making the text’s case rather better than the text itself." Oh, my mistake. I wonder if Freedland would have made the same argument in defense of Rowling if her comments had been attacking Zionists instead of transgender people.

N said...

Indeed, 17:38. Oh yes he did! I get invariably suspicious when people like Freedman declare that any criticism whatsoever of their odious position just 'proves their point more'. These people tell us that criticism of the letter somehow justifies the letter even more, but they never explain how.

The Guardian has no shame, it seems. It has that in common with the signatories of the self pitying and self important Harper letter. And of course, Freedland himself. Many people, especially transgender individuals but many others, will not be upset about the Guardian's downfall.

Anonymous said...

You can add hypocritical to self pitying and self important when describing the Harper letter. Jonathan Cook wrote yesterday that "Thomas Chatterton Williams, one of the main drafters of the letter ... revealed that the original intention was to have it signed by Glenn Greenwald, the civil rights lawyer turned journalist who is a well-known champion of free speech. Ultimately, however, Greenwald was not approached because others behind the letter objected. In short, and paradoxically, free speech advocate Greenwald was cancelled from signing a letter about the threat posed by cancel culture."

N said...


Yes, I had a very satisfying laugh at that information!

Other hypocrisy:
JK Rowling signing the letter. Rowling very frequently threatens people much poorer than her with frivolous legal action if they disagree with her. They have to stay silent because she could do it for years and they would likely be bankrupted. Funny how that isn't against free speech to these people, huh?

Bari Weiss signing the letter. This is a rather disagreeable person who tries to get people fired for writing about the rights of Palestinians. She also once tried to get an innocent black colleague fired because she didn't want to go for a coffee with Bari. Weiss recently also resigned in disgrace from the New York Times. In her resignation letter she complained that colleagues who disagreed with her were not fired for doing so. So much for free speech, huh?

Anonymous said...


I didn't know Weiss signed the letter but Hadley Freeman wrote some shit in The Guardian yesterday, saying "I never really got the ferocity she provokes, this young woman on the American centre-left who is pro-Israel". Strangely enough, the two pieces Freeman links to provide the answer.

One is a puff piece on the so-called Intellectual Dark Web and the second is on the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. Neither Freeman nor Weiss seem to realise that mainstreaming white nationalists might contribute to creating the conditions where such tragedies will occur.

Rowling really needs STFU. Her insistence that sex is the same as gender (and that therefore nature is the same as culture!) is apparently justified because she suffered domestic abuse. This makes her especially sensitive to the possibility of assault in bathrooms even though neither she nor her former husband are trans and the domestic abuse (by its very nature) did not occur in a public bathroom.

Critics of alleged 'cancel culture' all seem to think that we're in some kind of Symposium where truth will emerge in 'an open marketplace of ideas'. I don't want to get into everything wrong with Socratic philosophy and classical liberalism so I'll just note that it was T-34 tanks which killed fascists, not Woody Guthrie's guitar.