Roy Greenslade has been accused of being "cannon fodder" in a war conducted by The Guardian against the Telegraph in a fierce battle over which newspaper can claim the greatest success for their online services.
Last week Greenslade launched an onslaught on the Telegraph Media Group owners the Barclay brothers and management accusing them of having "disembowelled" the paper by sacking its best writers.
Today Telegraph Media Group assistant editor Justin Williams has hit back on his personal blog CounterValue: "Greenslade - who neglects to mention that he parted company with the Telegraph in 2006 in less-than-happy circumstances after just three months as media commentator - is cannon fodder in a wider Guardian mission to show that the Telegraph is only able to challenge its online success by being a rapacious organisation. Believe what is presented as fact on guardian.co.uk/media and you’ll quickly be of the opinion that we’ve become a broadsheet Daily Express with a pair of swivel-eyed reactionaries holding the purse strings instead of a pornographer.
"It’s designed to undermine morale and to make recruitment difficult - after all, who’d want to join a once-great organisation run by such lunatics? It is designed, dare I say it, to make the Telegraph products unattractive to journalists, readers and advertisers.
"The truth is more prosaic, of course, and far less dramatic. The Telegraph, like everybody else (except, perhaps, the Guardian with its charitable status under the Supreme Scott Soviet), is grappling with the worst downturn in advertising revenues of the last 60 years. Newsprint costs are about to go through the roof. Any outfit being run as a business has to examine its expenditure in such an environment. And the owners? Far from wanting “their papers to be mouthpieces for their own reactionary opinions” they have never sought to control a single editorial line at the Telegraph."
Williams says of cut backs: "The Telegraph has trimmed its costs - it is outsourcing sub editing of some of its supplements to Australia; it has cut its contributions budgets; and, yes, it has let some of its writers go. Some have gone because their work was no longer what it once was, one or two have gone in circumstances unrelated to the redundancies and a couple have gone because they’ve had better offers from elsewhere - plus ca change."
"This is not a disembowelled organisation. It is a publisher adapting to the onset of a severe recession at the same time as a structural shift in reading habits. What sets the Telegraph apart is that it is a standalone business - it does not have Sky TV or Northcliffe newspapers or the Scott Trust to ensure its longevity no matter how deep the slump. It has to make a profit to survive.
"I have given up expecting the Greenslades, Prestons, Wilbys or any of other self-appointed guardians of journalism to understand that."