I read an interesting article in The Guardian on the 5th July 2017 in which critics were attacking a clearly politically biased front page in The Daily Telegraph (https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jul/05/newsagents-urged-to-refuse-to-sell-daily-telegraph-over-fictional-attack-on-labor).
The Telegraph had published a fictional front page and corresponding editorial, dated 5th July 2019, looking back on the first 100 days in office of a Labor government whose policies had resulted in “workers laid off, record tax rates, (and) rents hit new high”.
The critic quoted in the article was Victorian newsagent Mark Fletcher who said “There are no facts in this piece…It is typical for a selfish publisher that runs its agenda ahead of reporting the news”.
The reason I was intrigued by this story was because I was somewhat torn. On the one hand the fictional nature of the Telegraph headline is an obvious marketing stunt. In an age when newspapers are losing revenue to online sources, sales are declining and journalists are being laid off, is an article which itself generates headlines, gets people talking and sells more papers a bad strategy?
On the other hand, is it right, or ethical, for a major corporation such as News Corp. (which owns The Daily Telegraph) to use its resources and reach to disseminate propaganda and political bias in an attempt to influence the electorate?
It seems to me that increasingly many news sources possess a political bias, whether it is right leaning (News Corp), left leaning (eg. The Guardian) or centrist (eg, The Economist), and readers will be drawn to whichever source most closely resembles their own.
The controversy generated by The Telegraph article is bound to get under the skin of those who don’t agree with the politics of the piece, but it is meant to, and regular readers of The Telegraph will likely love it.
I’m of the opinion articles such as the Telegraph’s act to reinforce what readers already believe.
In an age of increasing political factionalism I don’t think it is necessarily a good thing to be inciting division, nor is it traditionally what belongs in a NEWS-paper, but it does appear to be the way publishers, whether online or offline, are heading in an attempt to remain relevant. The Telegraph operates in a competitive market and can’t be expected to keep their opinions to themselves when every other news source is promoting its own agenda, if more subtly than The Telegraph is doing.