The documentary evidence - letters between the two parties and others - is thought to stretch over a year and many thousands of words; there have been meetings in London clubs ('Wring at the withers, but lunch at the Garrick' has always been the Observer's motto); the board of directors has even been involved. The odd thing is that Stephen has been a remarkably good Washington reporter. Last year he was honoured as Washington's foreign correspondent of the year - an award that the Observer made much of in its promotions to advertisers.
So why ask him to come home? Observers suggest that the roots of the crisis lie in the newspaper's cost-cutting exercise last year, when attempts were made to reduce annual losses of many millions of pounds. Some people were paid off, others were moved, promises were made. An everyday story of recessionary Britain, in fact.Reuse content