Why Stephen Glover quit
Monday 14 February 2005
Stephen Glover, the media commentator who resigned from his job at
The Spectator last week, was regarded by senior management at the Barclay brothers-owned magazine as a "fifth columnist for Paul Dacre", the editor of the
Stephen Glover, the media commentator who resigned from his job at The Spectator last week, was regarded by senior management at the Barclay brothers-owned magazine as a "fifth columnist for Paul Dacre", the editor of the Daily Mail.
Glover quit on Wednesday after The Spectator's editor Boris Johnson spiked a piece he had written about staff cuts at The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph. Johnson says Glover - who contributes to the Daily Mail - agreed not to write about the 90 job cuts and, after resigning, contacted Dacre's newspaper to give it the story. "His first act was to ring up his homunculus Ephraim Hardcastle (the Daily Mail diary) and plant a disobliging item trying to spin it his way," he says. "The Mail is his mothership."
Johnson claims that it is a "testimony to the impartiality and magnificence" of The Spectator that it had long tolerated a media commentator who was a " Mail writer pursuing the agenda of the Mail group". "If he thinks that writing about the Telegraph is any sign of independence or machismo he must be joking," says The Spectator editor. "What would be true courage would be if he ever summoned up the gumption to attack the Daily Mail or comment on the management of the Mail and Dacre, or the bestial approach of the Mail to some stories. But he doesn't."
Glover refutes the suggestion that he has been overly sympathetic to the Mail, pointing out that he had, three weeks earlier, written a scathing column about the London Evening Standard, a stablemate of the Mail in the Associated Newspapers group. Glover says: "I saw no reason to attack [the Daily Mail] whatsoever, [but] I have written critically of the Evening Standard when the Evening Standard Lite came out."
Glover, one of the founders of The Independent in 1986, says he changed his mind over writing about the Telegraph job losses because he felt the cuts were "the leading media story of the week". But on receiving Glover's copy on Wednesday, Johnson says he groaned. The editor decided to consult the Telegraph's chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, who advised him that there was a factual inaccuracy in the piece. Glover had claimed the Telegraph was set to make £50m profit this year, but sources at the group say the true figure was "nowhere near" as much. Johnson cited the matter as his reason for not running the piece and Glover felt he had no choice but to resign.
One senior colleague of Johnson's says: "Glover threw his toys out of the pram, but we saw no reason to let him put the toys back in. Our concern was that he was a fifth columnist for Dacre and was following Dacre's agenda."
For Glover's part, he feels hard done by, claiming that his piece was not critical of the Telegraph management, and that he had even offered to tone it down. He says that the £50m figure was based on a prospectus drawn up by Lazards bank ahead of the sale of the Telegraph Group. "I said, 'Well, look Boris, I'm very happy to say the Telegraph is making significant profits this year - there's no magic in the figure'," says Glover, adding that he was also prepared to drop his suggestion that certain Telegraph departments could afford to lose "an ounce or two of spare fat".
Glover claims his spiked piece was balanced. "If anything this piece is slightly favourable to management. Any self-respecting columnist would want to write about his group if it becomes a big story," adding that no free-thinking media writer would now want to work for the Telegraph group.
Johnson scoffs at this, saying that no publishing group would sanction criticism of its own operations. But he does appear to back up Glover's notion that there will be no successor, asserting that media columnists are collectively perpetrating a "fraud on the public". "Media columns are an opportunity for journalists to settle scores, pursue hobby horses and sit in judgement over everybody else in their profession," he says, claiming that Glover's interest in setting up a new quality daily newspaper gave him an interest in knocking The Daily Telegraph. "Talk of impartiality is phooey," says Johnson. "I'm sorry to be tough, but he started it."
...and the story 'The Spectator' wouldn't print
"Journalists at The Daily Telegraph are up in arms after the newspaper's new management announced at the end of last week that 90 editorial staff will be made redundant, as well as some 200 staff in other departments, so that the company can invest in new full-colour presses.
They ask how the cuts can be justified, bearing in mind that the Telegraph Group is said to be making about £50m a year. Journalists on the paper and its Sunday stablemate are considering strike action.
The proposed cuts may have come as a shock to some, but I am afraid they were predictable, and would have been applied whoever succeeded in buying the
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