The Decline of a Great Newspaper

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.

Charles

 

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16 thoughts on “The Decline of a Great Newspaper

  1. I used to faithfully read the Telegraph. It was mentally stimulating, brilliantly-written and had some of the greatest minds writing for it. Within a decade, as you have mentioned, it has declined dramatically. The worst, in my opinion at least, is the growth of sourced articles from dodgy outlets such as AP. They’ve also started publishing more and more “sponsored” articles in order to try to keep their revenues trickling in. Naturally, this turns away many more aware readers. I only purchase the Telegraph when there is a promotion. For example, buy a copy of the Telegraph for £1.50 and get a bottle of water for free.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Charles, my first read of the day is the DT, my second is the meal. I have checked the time of the stories and find that the Mail had them first. I read all newspapers on line, apart from the Times, I have noticed the ‘premium’ articles which, as you say will complete the process of its demise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Morning Rosie. There are a limited number of articles we can comment on, though that’s a mixed blessing.

      Have you noticed, the decline of the Daily Telegraph has been in step with the decline of My Telegraph?

      The DT was a great world newspaper eight or nine years ago (e.g. expenses scandal). My Telegraph won a Cross Media Award from international newspaper organisation IFRA in October 2007. One of the judges, Robert Cauthorn, described the project as “the best deployment of blogging yet seen in any newspaper anywhere in the world”.

      Today the DT is a shadow and MyT a memory.

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      • I notice that the loss of comments in the DT is a cause for grumbles, I thought Charles would reply to some of the comments on his pieces, or is he above all that?

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          • My apologies too Charles, its unforgivable of me, I hadn’t taken account of the possibility you were still attending hospital.

            You must find blogging a diversion from your medical condition. I think Badger is in the same position.

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            • Rosie, no apologies necessary. I, too, am capable of being irritated by the failure of people to reply to comments. You were not to know that I still spend my life going to and from hospital. But things are looking up. They thought the cancer had come back, but have now established it hasn’t (just some internal bleeding which is apparently no problem at all). I don’t have to see any doctor again until next week (and that only for tests which we are confident will be fine). In the meantime I will do my best to reply to the people who are kind enough to comment on my pieces.

              Charles

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  3. Torygraph? Well….Brexit in a nutshell…folks voted leave and TPTB decided that white working class rednecks comme moi meme got it wrong. For other examples see Burkina Faso, Tajikistan, North Korea.

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  4. Trouble wiv you, grandpa, is you ain’t wiv it. Fuddy duddies like you is wots spoilin it for people like me who want a good story and lots tlts wiv it. Speshly Katie and the Towie birds.

    Yow want to come wiv us Essex boys to a hammers away game an see wot we do to the other side. We take football seeriusly.

    An wots wiv this stupid way of ritin ‘papers and ‘phones? You should be in a home wiv the rest of you pensioners. THAT WE BLEEDIN PAY FOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!@!!!!!!

    Yor days done and good riddens. Yous well named Charlie cos you is a charlie.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I cannot but agree ,Charles.
    As the clock winds down, so one loses family and friends … but does that have to include the newspaper that has served its readers so well for so long?
    I first started reading the DT almost sixty years ago and will freely admit that it was solely for the employment adverts. Having realised that time was passing and if I was ever going to make something of my life I needed a change of direction, the DT was the place to go for the widest selection of jobs for the upwardly mobile (although I don’t think that that phrase had yet been coined).
    As the years passed, for me the DT became a source for all the news that was fit to print and was worth the paper that it was printed upon. It was my boast to people who asked why I chose the DT. that almost everything of interest that happened around the world could be found within its pages, even if only in a paragraph buried deep in the inside pages. Okay, it was slavishly Tory, but as long as one understood that and scratched beneath the right wing veneer, the basic facts were there to be found. Unfortunately, those days have long gone.
    As to the headline in question Charles, I have to admit that it struck home like another painful nail in the coffin of reasoned and balanced journalism.
    I can only think that it was written by the same person who decided that each front page of the DT today is incomplete without a picture of a minor royal in-law (preferably female), and page three should be given over to inconsequential tittle-tattle about the latest serial prescription of mogadon for the masses currently available on terrestrial TV.
    ‘Serious’ newspapers could still have an important part to play by providing the service that they once did best, i.e. reported the news in depth and with the emphasis on accurate detail rather than on the sensational sound-bite. But like everything in life today, if there is not a very healthy (some might say indecent) profit to be made, it won’t happen.
    And in any case, how many of today’s present population can properly read and understand English … or even think that it is important to need to?

    Liked by 1 person

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