Who should an editor serve? The proprietor, the staff, the reader.
All of those. But the key concern in all of this is the reader. Start there and everything else will flow naturally. Understand what concerns the reader - and that means telling them what they need to know as well as what they want to hear - and you shouldn't go far wrong.
This week we have seen a prime example of what can be achieved by an effective editor. And a prime example of what can happen without an effective editor.
The Home Office minister Karen Bradley has told MPs that interim measures will be put before Parliament in the next couple of months to stop police and HMRC looking into journalists' phone and email records to try to identify whistleblowers unless they convince a judge that it right to do so.
That story was written on September 2 last year.
Press Gazette soon learnt that this was not an isolated incident and that some forces were using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to "spy" or "snoop" on journalists. The choice of verb may have been melodramatic, but this behaviour was clearly counter to the freedom of expression provisions enshrined in Article 10 of the Human Rights Convention.
Press Gazette wrote to police forces asking about their practices and was rebuffed by many, who said it was too costly to answer such questions. A petition was started asking the Interception of Communications Commissioner to act, attracting more than 1,600 signatures.
The acting commissioner did, indeed, act even before the petition was presented to him. He, too, wrote to every force in the country and they answered. It later turned out that the Act had been used to obtain information about the phone records of 82 journalists.
The Mail on Sunday reported that its journalists' phone records had been trawled to reveal sources of the Chris Huhne speeding ticket story - sources that a judge had specifically ordered should remain anonymous. Liberal Democrats made the overhaul of RIPA party policy, the Home Office promised to review the guidelines for its use.
All of that happened within six weeks of that first Tom Newton Dunn story.
But when the guidelines were reviewed the draft changes suggested only that a special note should be made where the records to be examined involved people in sensitive professions involving confidentiality - journalists, lawyers, doctors, for example.
Press Gazette attacked the issue with renewed vigour, encouraging people to respond to the draft before the consultation period ran out.
The Metropolitan Police were meanwhile refusing to engage with PG, rejecting a Freedom of Information request as "annoying and vexatious" because the website had had the temerity to ask six questions on the subject.
This month the interceptions commissioner submitted his report to the Prime Minister. He found that police were not paying attention to Article 10, that they should be told to do so and, as belt and braces, judges should have to approve warrants to look at data in the hope of finding journalists' sources. David Cameron and Theresa May accepted the recommendations, but it was still not clear that action would be taken before the election.
Karen Bradley's promise comes just 24 weeks after that first story - an astonishingly speedy and successful outcome for Press Gazette under the leadership of Dominic Ponsford.
Ponsford and his news editor Will Turvill have been nominated for two big campaigning awards for their efforts. They are up against stiff opposition and may not emerge triumphant. But their industry should make some special effort to acknowledge their work - some recognition at the Press Awards would be appropriate - on behalf of their readers: the journalists in this country.
Ponsford is, you see, an editor who understands his readership. He set up the British Journalism Awards to recognise public interest journalism, ethical journalism that makes a difference. He has never condoned bad practice, but he has defended those he feels are being ill-used or made scapegoats by the machines of the state or their employers.
This is what an editor should be doing.
The paper's response to Peter Oborne's explosive account of life on the paper since the sacking of Tony Gallagher was at first limp, then pathetic and has now scraped the bottom of the barrel. To use the deaths of two people to smear a rival shows such an extraordinary lack of compassion, sense of proportion and basic news judgment as to beggar belief. Did whoever put today's paper together really believe that this was an issue of such importance that it should appear on the front page? Did they really believe that this was a matter of interest to the readers? Why should the Telegraph's audience be remotely concerned with the working environment of another newspaper group? Or that the Guardian may or may not have changed one headline last July?
The Telegraph may genuinely have believed that the HSBC story was old, but once a story has traction you can't just ignore it. If the Telegraph thought that the BBC and the Guardian (it's unclear how the Times became included in its triumvirate of 'leftwing Labour soulmates') were rehashing old news for political reasons, it could have written a piece pointing out its own previous coverage of this story. If there were indeed a story to refer back to. Instead it just ignored it for two days and then presented it as one where the villains were HMRC, Miliband, the man in the moon - anyone but HSBC.
Private Eye had written much about the absent coverage before the Telegraph's former chief political commentator and writer of editorials called the paper to account.
Oborne's blog led to appearances on television and radio and was well covered by the Guardian, Independent and Times. The Telegraph wrote nothing. Readers who didn't listen to the Today programme or watch Channel 4 News must, therefore, have been bemused when they encountered a lamentable full-length leader scattering accusations at all and sundry and bleating about the lack of attention everyone had paid to its MPs' expenses scoop.
Funny that. I didn't notice rival papers scoffing at that story. I do remember everyone scrambling for the Telegraph the moment the first editions came up to see the next instalment and rushing to catch up. I do remember the then deputy editor of the Times, which of course turned down this gem, describing it as "the gift that keeps on giving". I do remember everyone crediting the Telegraph in their coverage. I do remember the industry recognising its work with a shower of awards.
The Telegraph is so confident in its defence of itself that the "news" stories today about the Guardian and Times carry no bylines. Buzzfeed reports that the author of the front-page suicide story was seen arguing with the newsdesk about it. The comment buttons on the website are absent from the stories and from the leader - although readers were able to comment on previous editorials this week on such subjects as Brian the horse and Putin in Ukraine. Does this mean the Telegraph doesn't think readers would have anything to say on the matter (in which case why publish the stories?) or is it afraid that they may not approve of what has been written and how it has behaved?
Peter Oborne accused the Telegraph of a fraud against its readers. Its response this week reinforces the perception that the readers are the last people it is concerned about.
A strong editor would never have found himself in such troubled waters. But instead of steering this once-great ship to safety, whoever was at the helm ploughed on through the ice floes and straight into the iceberg.
The Telegraph under Murdoch MacLennan and Jason Seiken has done away with traditional titles in favour of directors of content. Chris Evans is the weekday editor, Ian MacGregor in charge of weekends. We have heard from none of these four men this week.
So the question remains: who is editing the Telegraph?
Also on this subject:
Peter Oborne quits
The Telegraph strikes back
A layman's guide to the relationship between editorial and advertising
Blurred lines in the native advertising newsroom