There is a lot which is still good in the Daily Telegraph. But there is a great deal which is pretty rotten.
The Telegraph’s headline, after the decision of the High Court on Article 50 (“Judges v the People”), was deplorable. It must have been written by someone who thought the Telegraph should imitate the Sun. It was bad for the simple reason that it was entirely misleading. The judges had not declared war on the people. All they had done was to express an opinion on the law which may or may not have been right but which they sincerely believed to be correct. As it happens, I think they got it wrong, but I know that their view was a thoroughly respectable one. Many experts on constitutional law think they got it right. Others think they erred. But no one with the vaguest understanding of these things could have concluded, as the Telegraph’s headline suggested, that the judges had set out to prevent the people from getting their way, that they had determined that we should stay in the EU against the wishes of the majority of the electorate.
Of course, many second rate politicians hope to use the court’s decision to prevent the people’s will from prevailing. But that does not mean that that was why the judges concluded as they did. Their job was to interpret the law. They would have been in grave breach of their duty if they had allowed consideration of how twits like Nick Clegg and Tony Blair would react to their judgment to influence their reasoning.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, there is a lot which is good in the Telegraph. Its leader on the subject of the High Court decision was entirely reasonable. It certainly didn’t reflect the inflammatory headline on the front page. And Charles Moore’s article was appropriately respectful to the judges, even going so far as to say it was possible they had got the law right. All is not lost.
But there are more serious problems. The Telegraph used to be a NEWSpaper. There was a time when it had more news staff than any other ‘paper in the world. Wherever something newsworthy happened the probability was that a Telegraph reporter would get there and would report first hand on what he or she was witnessing. That is no longer the case. The Telegraph does still have someone in Washington, someone in Paris and someone in Berlin. But that’s about it. Almost all news stories are now copied from the world wide interweb. Even domestic stories are littered with copy and paste stuff from the awful Twitter machine. Reporters (hardly the appropriate word any longer) never leave the office. All they do is surf the interweb or copy whatever the Daily Mail has written.
And the demise of proper sports reporting is a real tragedy. I remember frightfully left wing friends confessing that they bought the Telegraph because of its exceptionally good sports pages. Those days have passed. Yes, of course, test matches (cricket and rugby) are still reported. But, otherwise, all you will get is pages and pages of association football. I will give you an example from today. Andy Murray, who has just become number one tennis player in the world (the Telegraph did report that fact) was playing in the final of the Paris Masters (one of the second tier tournaments only less important than the four grand slams). He won, increasing his lead over Djokovic and giving him his fourth tournament victory in a row. Has the Telegraph reported that remarkable achievement? No. Tennis is not association football and, anyway, they couldn’t afford to send anyone to Paris.
In the good old days the Telegraph prided itself, for instance, on its reporting of schoolboy rugby and cricket. Those stories were not only of interest to proud mummies and daddies. They also informed the rest of us about the next generation of sports stars. But all that is over and done with. Reporting on schoolboy rugby and cricket requires reporters to go out and watch the matches (it can’t be done on the interweb). The Telegraph’s management is deeply opposed to sending any reporter anywhere (too expensive). So all we get are reports on association football matches which are shown on Sky Television.
I do find all this very sad. I will continue to buy the Telegraph, because of all the good stuff in it. But I know how much better it used to be and I am horribly depressed, almost every morning, when I see how dreary it now is.