Damian Thompson

When old media loses its audience

Again, as it is so often now it surely can’t be a coincidence, news from the UK closely mirrors what is happening in New Zealand.

James Delingpole at Breitbart discusses the problems that are dragging down the Telegraph. Loss of focus on core customers and their wants and needs and following a left wing path to mediocrity…all reducing their readership and value as a result.

If you change out Telegraph for NZ Herald you will realise the same malaise is besetting our biggest paper in NZ.

Speaking as one who spent most of his journalistic career on the Telegraph – I joined in 1988 and worked variously there as an obituarist, diarist on the (defunct) Peterborough column, and arts correspondent – I can’t say this affords me any Schadenfreude. I loved the Telegraph: for at least two decades it was the only paper to which I subscribed because its generally pro-small-government, pro-tradition, pro-personal-responsibility, pro-freedom, pro-country politics aligned most closely with my own.

But I can’t pretend it isn’t good news for the operation here at Breitbart London. And to understand why all you have to do is look at some of the comments below our posts.

Many of them come from disgruntled ex-Telegraph readers, furious at the studiedly centrist direction their paper has taken, yearning for more of the red-meat conservatism and/or libertarianism which these days they can find almost nowhere in the UK mainstream media but which is Breitbart’s raison d’etre.

It wasn’t always this way. And it didn’t need to be this way. Not so long ago, the Telegraph had a secret weapon in the form of the superb, incisive, tell-it-like-it-is blogs section established by Damian Thompson. Thompson’s unspoken ambition – in sly defiance of the print paper’s increasingly centrist stance – was to create a kind of UK online answer to Fox News. To this end, he recruited a roster of some of the finest right-wing commentators in the business which, at various stages, included: Thatcherism’s living conscience Lord Tebbit; MEP Dan Hannan; Toby Young; Douglas Murray; Ed West.

I was on the list too and, for a period, Telegraph blogs was the only place to be. At least it was if you thought that the media desperately needed a counter to the almost overwhelmingly left-wing online narrative provided by HuffPo, Slate, Salon and the Guardian’s Komment Macht Frei. It was, indeed, like the Telegraph used to be in its glory days, only more colloquial, funny, snarky and up-to-the-minute topical. The traffic was huge; and growing. For example, when it helped break the Climategate scandal, its post garnered over 1.5 million hits.

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Headline of the Day

Awesome headline from the Telegraph:

Damian Thompson gets right into the liberal elite subsidised arts bludgers:

To put it another way, people who hold down non-jobs – or work in the arts at a time of crippling deficits – are royally screwed by the drying up of subsidies. They also have problems making sense of chaos. Zizek mocks the Guardian/BBC lobby’s attempts to interpret the Tottenham riots, “trying desperately to translate the protests back into their familiar language”, whereas in fact the only “programme” espoused by the rioters involved free trainers.

These are harrowing times for a bien pensant elite who once gorged themselves at public expense (when someone mentions the Blair years, I think of smarmy “executives” in Alan Yentob stubble slavering over canapés). Now they are showing their panic in different ways – by presenting clumsily biased reports on the Today programme, by throwing hissy fits on the letters page of the Guardian and, as we saw this week, by supporting moves to strangle the conservative newspapers that mock their piggy ways.

The evisceration of this culture is necessary for capitalism to thrive. Let the P45s rain down on White City and Whitehall alike. That’s my view, anyway; Slavoj Zizek thinks capitalism and liberalism should fall together, which is why he exalts “sacred” violence for its own sake. He’s a Communist who appears to believe that private property is theft. So I hope he won’t mind that I downloaded one of his books from the internet without propping up the system by paying for it.

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The Fisking of Fisk

The Telegraph

Damian Thompson gets stuck in to lying lefties, in particular Robert Fisk, the darling of the left:

Crusading Left-wing journalists thought the internet was going to be their friend, enabling them to broadcast the evils of capitalism to a new audience. But things haven’t gone quite to plan. Instead, the web has thrown a spotlight on liberal hacks indulging in a habit that they just can’t kick, however hard they try.

I refer, of course, to making stuff up. With the best of intentions, naturally.

Let’s start with a journalistic hero of the London/New York literati who is being accused of breaches of professional ethics but denies any wrongdoing.

Step forward Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent of the Independent – former employers of Johann Hari – who is in an extremely tight spot this weekend. Private Eye has printed a round-up of allegations made about him by fellow foreign correspondents on a private Facebook forum. They accuse this ferocious anti-Zionist of (and I’m choosing my words carefully) embroidering news reports that invariably cast the leaders of the “US-Israeli axis” as Bond villains.