Cementing perhaps the worst week in the newspaper’s history, The Daily Telegraph published an article on Friday in which it used the reported deaths of two members of News UK, the publisher of The Times and The Sun, to attack the company.
The move, roundly denounced by many on Fleet Street, marked the latest escalation in a war sparked by criticism of The Telegraph by its former Chief Political Commentator Peter Oborne, who resigned earlier this week, accusing his former paymasters of failing to cover the HSBC scandal because of the bank’s close ties with the newspaper’s advertising department.
The story on the front of today's Telegraph
Rather than refute Oborne’s accusations, on Thursday The Telegraph published a bizarre leader in which it blamed The Guardian, The Times and the BBC of being part of a vast plot to bring down David Cameron and the current government.
Having pointed the finger at its rivals, The Telegraph posted a separate article on Friday afternoon accusing the Guardian of dropping a report on Iraq due to concerns from Apple, who advertise in the paper.
That was followed on Friday evening by the more guttural report on News UK, which said the Murdoch-owned company had launched an “internal investigation after two members of its commercial department took their own lives within weeks of one another amid fears that staff are being put under unreasonable pressure to hit targets.”
One former employee of the Telegraph told HuffPost they were "horrified" by the News UK story, and the swirl of accusations. "It's been just horrible to see, there are so many fantastic journalists who work there."
The article claimed that the newspaper’s commercial and editorial arms were working too closely with each other – exactly the charge levied at The Telegraph by its own erstwhile writer. Neither the article about the Guardian nor News UK featured a reporter byline. Both had comments turned off, no doubt fearful of a backlash.
A News UK spokesperson said: “We would never comment on the details around an employee’s death but very sadly we lost two members of staff in unconnected circumstances in recent months from our London and Manchester offices.
“The company’s HR procedures are second to none, with weekly and often daily meetings with team leaders, a compulsory induction and training day for new starters and a proud open door policy for all employees. In keeping with our high standards we are currently conducting an internal investigation”.
The Daily Telegraph has not responded to a request for comment on this story. But journalists were privately expressing contempt, as rumours that the journalist had refused to put their name to the story in question circulated.