The Daily.Telegraph, one of our most venerable newspapers, is having a really difficult year. Like most national papers, it has to cope with falling paper sales and a drop in advertising revenues. But that’s not all the Telegraph has to worry about.
In February Peter Oborne, their chief political commentator, resigned because he felt that fear of jeopardising advertising revenues had resulted in the paper refusing to run a story critical of HSBC’s tax affairs. Oborne was furious with the Telegraph for, in his mind, putting the interests of advertisers ahead of the interest of readers.
A few weeks later the Telegraph’s editor Peter Gallagher was shown the door, claiming that “I’m being sacked because I’m good”.
Then just this week, the Telegraph suffered the embarrassment of being publicly censured by the Independent Press Standards Organisation and forced to print an apology. The rebuke was over a front page story which the Telegraph had printed in the run up to the general election claiming that SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was hoping for a Conservative victory. The story, based on a memo leaked by then Scottish Secretary Alastair Carmichael, was described by IPSO as inaccurate and misleading.
Not too long ago, the Telegraph was at the forefront of British journalism. Don’t forget that in 2009 it broke the story of the parliamentary expenses scandal and brought the careers of some MPs to a swift end.
Despite all the problems, many of them self inflicted, there is still much to admire about the Daily Telegraph. It continues to publish Matt, unquestionably the best cartoonist on any national paper. It has a sports section which is the envy of its rivals and earlier this year it exposed long standing MPs Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind in a “cash for access” sting.
So, where does the Telegraph go from here? It faces the classic dilemma of trying to attract a new and younger audience while at the same time not alienating existing readers, many of whom are conservative (in every sense of that word!) and highly resistant to change.
Last week saw the Telegraph celebrate its 160th birthday with a redesign which included a new typeface. It will be interesting to see how readers react to the new look paper. In the meantime, the Telegraph would probably benefit from scoring fewer own goals.