Peter Oborne is not the first to jump ship over a controversial news story
Peter Oborne’s dramatic decision to resign from The Telegraph will have long running consequences for the paper, which he called ‘the most important conservative-leaning newspaper in Britain’.
Oborne, the Telegraph‘s chief political commentator, wrote an incendiary piece for Open Democracy in which he accused the paper of ‘placing what it perceives to be the interests of a major international bank above its duty to bring the news’ to its readers.
But Oborne wasn’t the first to go on a point of principle. Here are five other journalists who turned on their employers when tough issues were covered:
1. In June of last year, RT presenter Sara Firth resigned over the outlet’s coverage of the MH17 crash, which she said showed ‘total disrespect to the facts’. Like Oborne, she cited one story as pushing her over the edge after a steady erosion of her faith in the organisation’s integrity. RT responded by saying simply that they had been told she had another job offer.
2. A few months before Firth, another RT presenter resigned, this time live on air. Liz Wahl, a presenter on the American station, said that she could no longer be part of a network that ‘whitewashes the actions of Putin’ in coverage of the conflict in Ukraine. RT called it a ‘self-promotional stunt’.
3. In November Sky TV presenter Charlie Webster resigned as a patron as Sheffield United after Ched Evans was allowed to return to the team having served a sentence for rape. In an interview with Newsnight, she said:
“My decision is made on the fact that I don’t believe a convicted rapist, as in Ched Evans, should go back to a club that I am patron of and should go back into the community to represent the community.”
4. In 2012 Al Jazeera journalist Ali Hashem resigned over the channel’s coverage of the war in Syria:
“I saw tens of gunmen crossing the borders in May last year – clear evidence that the Syrian revolution was becoming militarised. This didn’t fit the required narrative of a clean and peaceful uprising, and so my seniors asked me to forget about gunmen.”
Hashem’s resignation was catalysed by the hacking of Al Jazeera emails by the pro- Assad group Syrian Electronic Army, who uncovered correspondence from Hashem expressing his frustrations with the coverage. He later said that the station had become a ‘media war machine’.
5. In 2011, Daily Star journalist Richard Peppiatt resigned in protest at the paper’s ‘anti-Muslim propaganda’. He said: ‘”The lies of a newspaper in London can get a bloke’s head caved in down an alley in Bradford.” Last year Peppiatt made a documentary film called ‘One Rogue Reporter’, which aimed to expose the hypocrisy of the tabloid press by subjecting them to their own brand of intrusive treatment.
Oborne’s in good company, but his seniority means that his resignation is likely to be especially damaging for the Telegraph. His allegations hinge not only on the HSBC coverage, but on the whole concept of the paper’s independence. His allegations about the collapsing line between editorial and advertising at the Telegraph mean many conservative-leaning readers will feel their faith in the paper shaken to the core.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.