Kim Fletcher is getting in a twist today in the On the press column in Media Guardian today about “who wears the trousers at the Telegraph?” Is it John Bryant, the editor in chief, or Will Lewis, managing director (editorial) laying down the rules? he want to know.
I seem to recall that this was a question that could have been asked about the Telegraph in the distant days when Bill Deedes was an editor who concentrated on policy and opinion and left most of the rest to others.
Fletcher see the Telegraph moving towards a “broadcast model” where programmes have their own editors whose identities are barely known beyond their own staff. He writes:
This development goes to the heart of the nature of newspapers. The editor, either personally or by proxy, is responsible for everything in the paper. Indeed, that responsibility is recognised by our legal system. The editor’s interests, obsessions, hatreds, passions â€“ or, through him or her, those of the proprietor â€“ have traditionally been woven into the character of the paper. Now that the brand is so much more than the paper, where does that power stop? This column has explored before the determination of managements to reduce the power of editors. In their preferred world, the editor is merely another line manager, in charge of the journalists in the way that other managers are in charge of the ad sales team and the circulation department. The Telegraph’s new world at Victoria is taking us closer to that destination.
Firstly, if Fletcher is looking at the BBC for his comparison, that is a much larger organisation more akin to a group of newspapers. The 24-hour multi-media operation the Telegraph promises, will still be small enough for one person to exercise control over policy and tone. But a 24-hour operation can never be like a traditional newspaper where everything is published at a fixed time and can be seen by the editor.
Secondly, editorial roles are bound to change in this new world of journalism. Editorial management structures will have to be flatter. In many ways the task of the editor will become more difficult, ensuring a consistent and robust voice across the paper and the web’s text, video and audio.
I don’t see this as demoting the editor to a job like any other departmental manager. The Telegraph’s new model has, at its heart, sections responsible for print and online. This should facilitate consistent editorial control.
Whether the Telegraph has found the best editorial organisation for the future is anyone’s guess. But it is inevitable that the old newspaper model cannot last.