Friday, November 6, 2009...9:30 am

FT: pink paper turns red?

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Iain Martin of the Wall Street Journal has written an interesting series of posts fisking the Financial Times.

Essentially he argues that the FT – which is typically perceived as a bastion of the pro-capitalist media, and also has a reputation for quality coverage – is biased and sloppy.

One post discusses an FT story on industry worries about a potential post-election Conservative planning regime. It quotes EDF Energy – whose communications director happens to be Gordon Brown’s brother – and also spins the headline to be much more dramatic than the story merits (well, that’s journalism for you).

Another refers to City hostility to Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne’s plans for bank bonuses, but fails to to back this up with relevant quotes. Then a third looked at how the FT bigged up an anti-Tory letter from Labour attack dog Alastair Campbell into another prominent anti-Conservative story. Which is hardly news, since that’s what Alastair Campbell exists to do.

As a long-time weekend FT reader, I had noticed what I took to be isolated bits of left-leaning writing, mainly in the Magazine. But I thought it was just the usual mis-match between left-leaning journos and the paper’s pro-business stance and which hadn’t been picked up and edited out.

But if Guido Fawkes is to be believed, this is a deliberate trend. He suggests that the paper’s falling circulation in its London City heartland means its focus is becoming more Europhile – and hence statist, if not socialist – as overseas sales become more important.

Which papers are benefitting? The relentlessly free market City AM, which is enjoying a healthy circulation boost and is apparently making money, and the resurgent Wall Street Journal, apparently.

It’s interesting stuff. It reminds me of the popular misconception that The Sun was still “a Labour paper” many years after it started vociferously supporting the Tories. Mention the FT to many people, including journalists, and they’d probably have no idea it was starting to lean leftwards.

But it’s also an interesting case study in whether or not it pays to stick to your journalistic guns. The key question is whether the long-term damage to the FT‘s financial and business credibility outweighs any short-term gain from playing to a more anti-capitalist European sentiment.

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