Ex-hacks and editorial staff at Telegraph towers are taking to the company employee review website Glassdoor to give the senior leadership team both barrels over its “toxic culture” and “bullying” management. In the past year alone, dozens of anonymous miserable employees have flocked to the website to leave one and two-star diatribes over Chris Evans’ notorious reign of terror. The sort of comments they tend to send to Guido’s inbox; at one point staff were offered a £2,000 bounty for every new starter they brought into the Telegraph family.
Since around this time last year, he’s a flavour of what fleeing staff have had to say about the company:
“Really poor senior management”
“The company doesn’t invest in journalism”
“In editorial it is the worst bullying workplace you could ever experience, people are traumatised, people have been hospitalised for stress”
“Toxic culture, systemic bullying, terrible communication, complete lack of vision”
“Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.”
Ten one-star reviews have been written in the last three months alone. In Evans’ defence, a few ex-hacks complain about the “long hours“, which would suggest they were just in the wrong line of work to begin with. Still, an average rating of 2.9 stars probably won’t help with that staff exodus…
Chris Evans’s “Reign of Terror” at Telegraph towers is having consequences beyond a backlash from employees. In addition to the usual sackings, the paper is now facing an “exodus” of staff, according to whistleblowers. Guido’s newsroom moles reveal that the state of things has got so bad senior managers are now distributing flyers on every desk in the London HQ, titled “It pays to know people”. You’d hope you wouldn’t have to tell that to a room of journalists…
The flyer’s proposition is simple: staff could earn £2,000 for every new starter they bring into the Telegraph family. As well as the purple pamphlets on each desk, a large notice has also been erected at the entrance to the newsroom with the same “It pays to know people” message, and emails from Mark Musgrave their “Chief People’s Officer” have also been hitting inboxes.
There are, the mole reports, now “leaving drinks” emails from staff every week, sometimes multiple; “the frequent sound of people being “banged out” of the office, as is tradition, has become deafening.”
Whistleblowers attribute hacks abandoning ship to one major complaint: the ban on working from home. The policy was introduced after the pandemic in September 2021 and is seen as particularly nonsensical given most staff only chat online anyway. This stands in contrast to other papers, many of which have adopted a hybrid approach to work.
“The reason is ideological, and down to a lack of trust from managers of their own staff, which is why management culture and WFH is so often cited by those leaving. Ironic, though, how the Telegraph’s HR floor is always empty because they’re WFH.”
Staff are apparently exhausted, the poor dears. Meanwhile the paper’s columnists are often found filing op-eds from the comfort of their homes about the outrage of people not returning to offices…
Guido has been critical of The Telegraph’s direction, receiving plenty of emails from unhappy former readers about it. So it is only fair to report that the Telegraph Media Group (TMG) has seen profits rise and claims online subscriptions have reached a record 740,000 paying subscribers, generating a 25% rise in pre-exceptional operating profits. They say that online subscriptions are generating £44 million in revenue which they claim gives “blended average revenue per subscription (ARPS) for December 2021” of £175. Which is triple what Guido gets (£59.45) from dividing £44 million by 740,000 paying subscribers. So either Guido is missing something or the figures don’t compute, particularly as everybody Guido knows is on the £1 subscription deal. Perhaps The Telegraph’s energetic* PR could call to explain?
It is noticeable that this all coincides with the bloody end of the Grazia era at the Telegraph. First the Telegraph Magazine editor, Marianne Jones, and her deputy Lucy Dunn, both went off with stress after falling out with editor Chris Evans last year, and never came back. Then “Director of Lifestyle” Jane Bruton herself popped out for coffee one day and never returned – not fired as her lawyers insisted unconvincingly to Guido (there was no leaving party either, a shocked newsroom source told Guido). Then Features Director Vicki Harper also went off with something stress-related at the same time as Jane, formally leaving the company last week (presumably after coming to some financial agreement with TMG). The question a lot of people are asking is: why were they ever hired in the first place? It appears, seven years later, Chris Evans came to the same conclusion.
Jane Bruton, The Telegraph’s deputy editor is unexpectedly out. With the latest figures showing print circulation down 14% the paper is upping the news quotient. Bruton, who was Grazia’s editor-in-chief before joining the Telegraph in 2015, was director of lifestyle and deputy editor. The news came as a surprise to the newsroom. Senior Telegraph sources are keen to tell Guido that she is going of her own volition.
UPDATE: Chris Evans emailed Telegraph staff the following:
After seven glorious years, Jane Bruton has left The Telegraph to pursue new challenges. We’ll miss her enormously and we’d like to thank her for her marvellous contribution in helping us reach 750,000 subscriptions, with the target of 1 million firmly in sight. Paul Nuki will act as temporary replacement for Jane, reporting to me. Kath Brown will continue to run the Lifestyle half of Features and she will also report to me. Anyone interested in replacing Jane, and helping to lead The Telegraph in its digital transformation, should apply to Adam Sills.
No mention of what Bruton’s new challenges might be and strange that if she had, as Evans claims, decided to leave presumably after having given her notice as normal, that no permanent replacement was lined up. According to a source, struggling editor Chris Evans’s “reign of terror” is also the explanation for Jane Bruton’s deputy, Victoria Harper, being on sick leave. It will be interesting to see how the paper is doing when their annual figures are out later this month…
For the past couple of years Telegraph staff have kept track of the internal bloodletting and embarrassing insider secrets recounted in remarkable detail in Private Eye. Eagle-eyed reporters have noticed a pattern. While he has a reputation in the office for being an all-powerful control freak who always gets his way, in the Eye editor Chris Evans is almost always portrayed as an ignorant, innocent party who is far from the scene of the crime.
Take this well-informed Eye nugget about the Telegraph’s infamous election day email urging readers to vote Tory, for which the paper was fined £30,000. Even though Evans’ name was on the email, the Eye write-up generously portrays him as an innocent bystander “without a political thought in his head“, and instead names and shames two other Telegraph journalists, as well as Murdoch MacLennan and Aidan Barclay, as being responsible.
Then there was this curiously briefed story about the Telegraph’s positive coverage of UKIP. The Eye’s piece makes clear that talking up UKIP definitely isn’t Evans’ idea, in fact it is Evans who has been “keeping at bay” UKIP supporter and Telegraph owner Frederick Barclay. Evans is referred to as an “idiot“, but it’s Sir Frederick who is the true villain of the piece.
This Eye story, again very well-informed, derides the decision of Telegraph execs to cut back the Saturday paper. MacLennan and the Barclay brothers are named as the guilty parties, but who was it who bravely tried to fight back against the cull? Chris Evans, of course, alas his efforts were, according to the Eye’s top source, sadly “swept aside”.
What about this Eye hit piece on former Sunday Telegraph editor Ian MacGregor, who is dubbed a “laughing stock” whose job was really being done by – you guessed it – Chris Evans. MacGregor is portrayed as a shameless lackey of Aidan Barclay’s business interests. Who was the man standing up to him? Evans, once again.
Whoever the Eye’s mole is, it seems they are keen to make sure Evans escapes blame for calamitous decision making, as his rivals in Victoria are publicly machine gunned one by one…
“The Telegraph has become the Farage-graph”, declares ConHome this morning, as the paper puts yet another pro-Nigel, pro-Arron Banks story on its front page. The number of pro-Farage stories featuring on Telegraph front pages over the last few months has been notably disproportionate considering the relative size and significance of UKIP, and the fact Nige isn’t leader anymore. Added to that are Telegraph “Breakfast with Farage” events, not to mention op-ed after op-ed by Nigel. The new obsession is going down badly in the more liberal, metropolitan newsroom.
At a recent staff meeting, one brave journalist raised their hand and spoke about the recent Farage-centric coverage. The Barclays may like UKIP and they may host parties for Farage at the Ritz they mused, Telegraph readers however tend to be old Tories who don’t care much for the ‘Kippers. The concern in the newsroom is that the paper is running so many puff pieces for Farage and Banks because Banks is trying to buy the paper. Rumours have been circulating for months that Banks has been putting together a consortium of Brexit-backing donors to stump up the £250 million asking price – rumoured possible backers doing the rounds include Malcolm Pearson, David Stevens, Stuart Wheeler, Peter Cruddas and Michael Ashcroft. Asked if this was a possibility, Telegraph editor Chris Evans avoided the question and told his staff to follow the news. The prospect of a Banks-backed takeover has become the subject of gallows humour in the newsroom, though surely – without a lot of help – Arron just doesn’t have enough money?