Circulation was falling fast when I joined the paper in September 2010, and I suspect this panicked the owners. Waves of sackings started, and the management made it plain that it believed the future of the British press to be digital. Murdoch MacLennan, the chief executive, invited me to lunch at the Goring Hotel near Buckingham Palace, where Telegraph executives like to do their business. I urged him not to take the newspaper itself for granted, pointing out that it still had a very healthy circulation of more than half a million. I added that our readers were loyal, that the paper was still very profitable and that the owners had no right to destroy it.
The sackings continued. A little while later I met Mr MacLennan by chance in the queue of mourners outside Margaret Thatcher’s funeral and once again urged him not to take Telegraph readers for granted. He replied: “You don’t know what you are fucking talking about.”
For a long time newspaper owners everywhere could get away with anything because look, where else you gonna go, son? They could lie and cheat and steal, and there was enough slush floating around to mask the thievery and incompetence.
Plus let us face it, whatever newspapers were (and are) screwing up, local and national news programs were (and are) so awful that after the in-depth analyses of GOOD MORNING CLEVELAND and its ilk, the worst newspaper jock on his laziest day seemed like a Nobel laureate.
Now, though, there are other ways to get information out. There are other ways to find things and tell everybody. Failure and idiocy are exposed much, much faster than they used to be, and that has not been a boon for those whose stupidity was only tolerable because the profits made it so.