Crap Financial Journalism and the Daily Telegraph

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/19/2015 01:30:00 AM
Three-breasted aliens do program trading! (But even Rita Skeeter will shut up if you pay her enough.)
Regular readers will note that I am actually discriminating about the news outlets I feature despite the wide range of topics on offer. For instance, I will never, ever knowingly excerpt from the Business Insider founded by pump-and-dump specialist Henry Blodget. Call me radical, but the platform of a barred securities trader may not be the best source of information about business. I am not fond of its brand of hucksterism. Another whipping boy around these parts is the British Daily Telegraph for similar reasons With its sensationalist headlines regularly forecasting the end of the commerce as we know it, I have justly labeled it as yellow financial journalism. Its grasp of finance is pretty poor, too.

However, all is not always economic doom and gloom with the Daily Telegraph. Just as with Blodget, conflicts of interest are rife at the Daily Telegraph. Recent revelations by its former chief political commentator Peter Oborne reveal that this fearless publication may pull punches--for major advertisers, that is. You see, British bank HSBC has confessed to helping clients dodge taxes. In the modern world of banking, that's unexceptional. What's more newsworthy, though, is that the Daily Telegraph did its best to bury the HSBC tax-dodging story in its pages. So much for journalistic integrity. From the Beeb:
The chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph has resigned from the paper, accusing it of a "form of fraud on its readers" for its coverage of HSBC and its Swiss tax-dodging scandal. Peter Oborne claimed the paper did not give due prominence to the HSBC story because of commercial interests. Newspapers had a "constitutional duty" to tell readers the truth, he said. 
An analysis by the Beeb's David Sillito indicates the political economy of modern newspapers. As their readerships decline--whether folks read less or obtain news from other outlets--the source of newspaper revenues is tilting away from readerships and more towards advertisers. There is, as a result, more pressure to cater to the latter's concerns as opposed to some hoary notion of the public's right to know:
Amongst responses from journalists and news executives it's described as "eye-popping", "stunning", "explosive" and from professor Jay Rosen at New York University "one of the most important things a journalist has written about journalism lately". The Daily Telegraph is accused of a "sinister" betrayal of its readers.

Stories about HSBC, Tesco and China are said to be placed or sidelined for commercial reasons. But this is not just a parting swipe at an employer by a disgruntled member of staff, it's an explosion of anger about an issue that is worrying journalists across the industry. Newspapers are in a state of crisis. The Telegraph has seen its print sales drop by around half over the last 10 years. 
Peter Oborne's own account reveals the level of editorial tampering at this newspaper:
This was the pivotal moment. From the start of 2013 onwards stories critical of HSBC were discouraged. HSBC suspended its advertising with the Telegraph. Its account, I have been told by an extremely well informed insider, was extremely valuable. HSBC, as one former Telegraph executive told me, is “the advertiser you literally cannot afford to offend”. HSBC today refused to comment when I asked whether the bank's decision to stop advertising with the Telegraph was connected in any way with the paper's investigation into the Jersey accounts.

Winning back the HSBC advertising account became an urgent priority. It was eventually restored after approximately 12 months. Executives say that Murdoch MacLennan was determined not to allow any criticism of the international bank. “He would express concern about headlines even on minor stories,” says one former Telegraph journalist. “Anything that mentioned money-laundering was just banned, even though the bank was on a final warning from the US authorities. This interference was happening on an industrial scale.
The sensationalism is also explained well: its financial news is, in effect, the economic equivalent of hoaxes about three-breasted women. It's tabloid fare masquerading as news designed to draw the attention of the ignorant and impressionable:
Stories seemed no longer judged by their importance, accuracy or appeal to those who actually bought the paper. The more important measure appeared to be the number of online visits. On 22 September Telegraph online ran a story about a woman with three breasts. One despairing executive told me that it was known this was false even before the story was published. I have no doubt it was published in order to generate online traffic, at which it may have succeeded. I am not saying that online traffic is unimportant, but over the long term, however, such episodes inflict incalculable damage on the reputation of the paper.
To make a long story short, the Daily Telegraph is crap. Regular stories--those about poor sods not lucky enough to be major advertisers--are subject to tabloid-style sensationalism. Meanwhile, advertisers are above such treatment. Why the heck would you waste your time and money on this garbage? PT Barnum would be proud, but I do not subject my readers to such drivel. If you want a side helping of science fiction and fantasy, though, you know where to get your financial news.