Telegraph staff to be surveyed about concerns over workload and cuts
18 February 2015
A survey has been sent to all editorial staff members at the Telegraph asking about workload, work pressures and the effect changes at the paper have had on the quality of news.
The NUJ chapel is organising a meeting in light of the redundancies that took place before Christmas and the significant restructuring since then, plus concerns raised about commercial pressures on editorial quality.
Peter Oborne resigned from the paper and has accused it of perpetrating a "fraud on its readers" by bowing to commercial considerations and supressing coverage of the bank's Swiss subsidiary, which helped wealthy customers to dodge taxes and conceal assets. In an interview on Channel 4 News, he said:
"The Telegraph needs to explain to us why its coverage of HSBC has been skewed, and the really important people who it should explain this to are the readers of The Daily Telegraph. I've had so many conversations with Telegraph staff.
"I believe I am speaking for the vast majority of Telegraph staff that we have no confidence in the chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, and I'd go further than that and say we have no confidence at all in the Barclay brothers who own the paper."
The NUJ survey covers about work conditions at the paper, but it also allows editorial staff to make other comments in confidence.
Since the arrival of Jason Seiken at the Telegraph in 2013 as editor-in-chief, sweeping changes have been made to personnel with 60-plus jobs going last year, including experienced, high-profile journalists, in pursuit of his "digital-first newsroom".
Jason Seiken was assigned to non-editorial duties a year later, but the newsgathering operation has still been radically changed.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
"The brutal cuts at the Telegraph titles during the past few months have seen experienced and long-serving staff axed under the disguise of investment in digital, with remaining staff expected to maintain and boost quality with fewer resources.
"This survey will give staff an opportunity to voice their concerns anonymously about these changes and wider issues. Wherever they work, journalists should be properly protected from the risk of commercial pressure at the proprietors' behest.
"The NUJ believes it is essential to improve the ethics, culture and practices of the industry by including a conscience clause for journalists in contracts. This provision would give journalists the opportunity to refuse unethical assignments while providing a contractual protection against being dismissed for taking a stand for ethical journalism."
Professor Chris Frost, chair of the NUJ's ethics council, said:
"The NUJ has long called for a conscience clause to offer journalists legal protection for refusing to behave unethically. We also supported the call in the Leveson Report for a hotline for journalists to report poor behaviour. We are still waiting for IPSO to institute both these protections. IPSO had better hurry up, or it may find that the newspaper industry destroys itself first under the weight of its own self-interest."
- Peter Oborne: Why I resigned from the Telegraph (OpenDemocracy, 17 February 2015)
- How The Daily Telegraph compared with other nationals on 'HSBC files' coverage (Press Gazete, 18 February 2015)