Will the Guardian and Telegraph play nice again?

The ongoing spat between the Telegraph and the Guardian has been entertaining. But I wonder whether it might be drawing to a close.

In recent months, the Telegraph has become deeply interested in the Guardian’s financial performance, variously describing this as ‘grim“, ‘disappointing“, and ‘disastrous“.

The Guardian’s apparent inability to impose compulsory redundancies on editorial staff has become a favoured theme. In early December, the Telegraph spoke to one unnamed insider at GNM who described ‘highly-paid’staff journalists immune to compulsory redundancy as ‘bed-blockers”.

Another Telegraph story suggested that GNM employs so many editorial staff that ‘one features writer is reputed not to have had his name in the paper for more than a year”.

To be sure, Telegraph Media Group makes profits and Guardian News & Media makes losses – thumping great big losses. But why is the Telegraph so preoccupied with an unquoted rival whose fate doesn’t matter to investors reading the paper’s business pages?

Perhaps the answer lies in the pages of Media Guardian. In late November, Media Guardian ran a piece that portrayed Tony Gallagher, the Telegraph’s new editor, as the kind of Mail executive who destroys professional opponents after breakfast and eats their body parts for lunch — with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Awkwardly, the piece suggested that Gallagher, during his long career at the Mail, hadn’t been averse to doing ‘all the things that the PCC wouldn’t allow you to do now”. One unnamed source told Media Guardian: “I can’t think of anyone in our profession that I would least like to cross the threshold of my home.”

Elsewhere, at the Observer, in early December, Peter Preston offered his best wishes to Gallagher, before going on to argue that the Telegraph’s ‘perpetual”, ‘slithering’circulation decline has been a problem since the late 1960s. The implication was that Murdoch MacLennan’s modernization project is pointless.

Sadly, the fun may be about to end. An unnamed source — yes, another one – insists that the Guardian ‘has no desire to compete in a tit-for-tat way’with the Telegraph.

Is that an olive branch being extended to the Telegraph? Coincidentally, Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of Guardian Media Group, gave an interview to the FT this week in which she suggested that GMG is coming ‘out of the recession very strong”.

‘Yes we have made redundancies,’said McCall, ‘yes we have got the cost base down to where we want it now. . . They have done it, the GNM management are so on track. The Guardian is in good shape.”

Cumulatively, this sounds like an effort to draw a line beneath damaging coverage of the Guardian’s financial performance.

Whether the Telegraph takes the hint remains to be seen.

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