When journalists arrived at the London office of the Daily Telegraph on Thursday morning, multiple sources say they were met with a giant screen on the way to the newsroom showing the new UK prime minister saluting them.
“Congratulations to Boris from The Telegraph,” the caption to read from the screen. “The Telegraph’s own columnist becomes Prime Minister today.”
“Cringe,” one Telegraph journalist texted BuzzFeed News. “That about sums things up.”
This image was beamed from a screen in the Telegraph’s office.
Johnson has been the newspaper’s most famous employee for several years, with the right-wing broadsheet paying an eye-watering £275,000 a year for his weekly column.
The Johnson-Telegraph relationship goes back many years. As a young journalist, Johnson shot to prominence writing about the European Union as the newspaper’s Brussels correspondent.
In recent years, the Telegraph has become a cheerleader for Brexit, attacking Johnson’s enemies and promoting his causes.
But there are some at the Telegraph concerned about what happens now Johnson has been elevated to Downing Street.
One Telegraph source likened the situation to how far-right news outlet Breitbart had an identity crisis after Donald Trump became president.
“It reminds me of Breitbart after Donald Trump was elected,” one Telegraph journalist said. “None of the writers knew what to do because their default position was opposition for so long.”
The “Telegraph congratulations” image was also posted to an internal Facebook group for journalist’s called Telegraph Insider by the company’s CEO Nick Hugh.
As first reported by Press Gazette, Hugh’s post included the message: “Boris is the first Telegraph journalist since Sir Winston Churchill to lead the country. Boris has written for the Telegraph for the best part of three decades and in that time he has built a legion of devoted readers. On behalf of everyone at the Telegraph we send him our warmest wishes.”
Others shrugged off the Telegraph congratulations of the prime minister and its aggressive pro-Boris editorial line. One journalist said it’s all part of the UK newspaper tradition of being partisan.
“British newspapers have always been partisan,” the journalist said. “That’s what they do.”
“Rich people own newspapers and it’s the most vibrant newspaper market in the world, but it’s always been partisan. The UK newspaper market is a bit like American cable TV, you have your Fox News and your MSNBC,” they continued.
“There’s a lot of self-righteous hokum about the way Telegraph treats Boris. The Guardian tells Guardian readers what they want to hear just as the Telegraph tells its readers what it wants to hear.”
There were different scenes over at The Times, where Johnson began his career as a journalist. The Times Patrick Kidd tweeted an image this week which showed a sign in the newspaper’s office.
The text reads: “The Major of London (2008 – ) was sacked as a trainee by The Times in 1988 after falsifying quotes attributed to his godfather, the historian Colin Lucas. He was editor of The Spectator and became a Conservative MP in 2001 until assuming the mayoralty.”
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Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at [email protected].
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