By Steven Downes
At least six sports writers at the Telegraph have been told this week that they are to lose their jobs.
They are understood to include chief sports correspondent Ian Chadband, cricket analyst Simon Hughes, athletics correspondent Simon Hart, sailing and cricket writer Kate Laven, and Graham Clutton, who covered rugby and football for the paper from Wales.
At least one other nationally regarded expert in their sport is also understood to be leaving, though sportsjournalists.co.uk had been unable to contact them directly to confirm.
Telegraph Media Group did not respond to our enquiry.
The journalists were summoned to meetings on Tuesday to be given the news – just a fortnight after TMG had proudly issued a press release to announce that it had signed the former England batsman, Kevin Pietersen, as its latest “star” sports columnist.
As has been reported by Private Eye magazine this week, there is widespread staffing turmoil at the Telegraph‘s Victoria offices, with several senior staff from other departments – such as associate politics editor Ben Brogan and blog editor Ben Thompson – being sacked while the recently appointed editor-in-chief, Jason Seiken, has announced the intention to hire 40 more staff.
The Eye, in its usual spiky style, observes: “While the sackees are hacks, most of the putative new recruits aren’t. Some will be technical designers and engineers, as the Telegraph retreats from a disastrous experiment with outsourcing its web and app design.
“Others have the letters SEO in their job title, aka search engine optimisation, aka sexing up the hits and hyperlinks. This is … Seiken’s brave new world of journalism: get rid of hacks who actually write stuff but hire SEO geeks to fill the gap with clickbait trickery.”
The Eye goes on to report that this latest round of job cuts is all about cost-cutting, as the group is 8 per cent short of its £61 million profit target for 2014.
The impact of these latest job cuts on TMG’s papers and websites’ sports coverage is like to be profound. There certainly has not been anything like an “Olympic legacy” effect for the sports writers at the Telegraph, the paper which two years ago was running a daily Games supplement and laid claim to having supported London’s bid to stage the Olympics before all others.
Chadband, a past winner of the SJA’s Sports Feature Writer of the Year, and Hart, the former deputy sports editor of the Sunday Telegraph, are among the most experienced Olympic correspondents around, and might have been expected to cover next month’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Sailing, Laven’s speciality, is among Britain’s most successful Olympic sports and often provided lucrative commercial link-ups for newspapers. Hughes, the former Middlesex and Durham seamer well-known for his broadcast work with Channel 4 and Test Match Special, has long been rated as an outstanding writer on the game.
One Telegraph insider spoke of how the company “seems to regard journalists as disposable products”. They said, “It’s all about clicks and online gimmicks, at the expense of real journalism.
“There’s lots of good, gifted kids coming through working on sport, but they pay them peanuts. Anyone on a decent salary, however good they might be at the job, they are getting rid of.”
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