We Are On the Verge of Killing Popular Journalism

Back in September 2010 Guido produced, with the help of the Information Commissioner’s Office, this “blagging” chart. The idea that this crisis is only about News International is fanciful. Look who had the most recorded offences:

From the Information Commissioner’s report one can infer that at least 140 Mirror Group journalists could be looking at criminal charges. The Operation Motorman investigation was based on a group of blaggers used frequently by Mirror and Mail journalists to obtain information. Missing from this chart is The Telegraph, who according to a Guido source paid a private detective to hold a seminar at their Canary Wharf offices on how to hack phones back in 2000. The bribing of staff at HMRC, the DVLA, BT, the Land Registry, banks and  in the police has been endemic for decades. That is where the news you read is sourced.

In short every major newsroom in the land has used illegal techniques to obtain information. We are on the verge of criminalising hundreds of journalists.

We mocked George Monbiot this week for sayingthis is our Berlin Wall moment. On reflection there is a similarity, the Stasi HQ spied on the ordinary citizenry with all the paraphernalia of a police state. In Britain newspaper HQs spied on celebrities and the famous to entertain ordinary citizens. As readers we rewarded them by buying their papers.

Most of the hacking hacks will get suspended sentences and conditional discharges. Will they still be fit and proper journalists? Without the infotainment aspect of newspapers how will popular investigative journalism be financed? We are in danger of either killing off popular journalism or heading towards a French style subsidised newspaper sector, emasculated and servile to the rich and powerful…

Russia Today Anchorman Accuses
Sunday Mirror Editor of Phone Hacking Knowledge

Mirror Group CEO Sly Bailey has written to advertisers telling them that “our brands are trusted and respected” providing a “viable and valuable route to this important Sunday market…” Might those words come back to haunt her soon?

Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver has been accused directly by Max Keiser of Russia Today of knowing about phone hacking. He makes a series of claims about Weaver’s knowledge of phone hacking including that in 2002 she was aware of Piers Morgan knowledge of the neat little trick. Let the circular firing squad begin…

+ + + Brooks Resigns + + +

It was looking tricky as soon as Murdoch’s real daughter turned on her this morning.

UPDATE: Brooks’ email to staff:

At News International we pride ourselves on setting the news agenda for the right reasons. Today we are leading the news for the wrong ones.
The reputation of the company we love so much, as well as the press freedoms we value so highly, are all at risk.

As Chief Executive of the company, I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt and I want to reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know to have taken place.

I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis. However my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate.

This is now detracting attention from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past.

Therefore I have given Rupert and James Murdoch my resignation. While it has been a subject of discussion, this time my resignation has been accepted.
Rupert’s wisdom, kindness and incisive advice has guided me throughout my career and James is an inspirational leader who has shown me great loyalty and friendship.

I would like to thank them both for their support.

I have worked here for 22 years and I know it to be part of the finest media company in the world.
News International is full of talented, professional and honourable people. I am proud to have been part of the team and lucky to know so many brilliant journalists and media executives.

I leave with the happiest of memories and an abundance of friends.

As you can imagine recent times have been tough. I now need to concentrate on correcting the distortions and rebutting the allegations about my record as a journalist, an editor and executive.

My resignation makes it possible for me to have the freedom and the time to give my full cooperation to all the current and future inquiries, the police investigations and the CMS appearance.

I am so grateful for all the messages of support. I have nothing but overwhelming respect for you and our millions of readers.

I wish every one of you all the best.

Rebekah

UPDATE II: Tom Mockridge the CEO of Sky Italia will replace her. Interesting decision to reassure the world that you won’t be selling your newspapers by putting a telly man in charge of them. 

Guardian Says Sorry to Sun

Guido understands that Nick Davies* had a breakfast meeting on Tuesday morning with Gordon Brown. That meeting was a two-way information exchange and the erroneous article – with David Leigh and Nick Davies bylines – was published the same morning. Brown’s speech in the Commons chamber on Wednesday came in the wake of the Guardian story. This combined Guardian / Brown line of attack has now completely unravelled, with the Sunday Times editor John Witherow rebutting the claim that it employed a criminal to blag for information about Brown’s flat purchase from Robert Maxwell’s estate in a dubious deal brokered by Geoffrey Robinson.  Witherow is adamant that it was a legitimate investigation, in the public interest.

Sun Front Page - Brown WrongThe Sun is unsurprisingly crowing about the apology, Rupert Murdoch himself has stuck the boot in an interview in the Wall Street Journal saying of Brown “He got it entirely wrong… the Browns were always friends of ours” until that is The Sun switched support to the Tories. Brown has handed Murdoch and Wapping a chance to fight back…

Murdoch is bullish about appearing before a committee of MPs next week, saying he wants to address “some of the things that have been said in Parliament, some of which are total lies.”  Tom Watson has lost his bet that the Murdochs would chicken out of coming to the hearing. He won’t mind, his consolation prize is a chance to grill Rupert, James and Rebekah.

*A previous version transposed Nick Davies and David Leigh. You know how it is, these Guardian journalists all look the same to Guido. Corrected and apology on page 37.

Top Telegraph Hack Taped Discussing Blagging

In the summer of 1990 Boris Johnson was The Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent. In the now famous taped conversation between him and Darius Guppy, just months before the latter would be busted in a £1.8 million insurance scam, Boris conspired to have a News of the World journalist, Stuart Collier, beaten up on behalf of his old School chum. In the tape Boris says he’ll obtain Collier’s phone number and then get an address. As the UK has never published reverse directories how would Boris achieve this?

Well blagging of course. It had to be via the police or a British Telecom staffer. Most likely would be a copper, as it was standard practice on Fleet Street back then to take advantage of the fact that the Police National Computer did not record such inquiries unless an individual was flagged as a person of interest. BT on the other hand much tighter internal controls. Boris displayed both the knowledge and intent to blag, though there is no evidence that he actually supplied the requested information, despite saying he would. Perhaps The Telegraph’s leading columnist would like to explain what the public interest angle was on this one…

That’s a No Then

Dear John,

Thank you for your letter of 12 July, on behalf of the committee, inviting me to give evidence to you on 19 July.

Unfortunately, I am not available to attend the session you have planned next Tuesday. However, I am fully prepared to give evidence to the forthcoming judge-led public inquiry and I will be taking steps to notify those conducting the inquiry of my willingness to do so. Having done this, I would be happy to discuss with you how best to give evidence to your committee.

I hope this is of help.

Yours sincerely,

Rupert Murdoch

James won’t be there either, though said he is willing to give evidence in August. Brooks, however, will be put in front of the firing squad on Tuesday. Get your popcorn.

UPDATE: The Culture Media and Sport Select Committee have issued summons for the Dirty Digger and Jr.

Piers Morgan Declines To Comment

Piers Morgan Knew of Hacked Scoop

With five MPs now raising concerns about CNN’s Piers Morgan, the story is gathering pace. The Times  are ready to turn the magnifying glass away from Wapping:

 “…it has been more than a little ironic to see the inhabitants of the glasshouses of Fleet Street embarking on a collective exercise of stone throwing…”

Morgan’s hacking continues to gain traction on the other side of the pond.  The Telegraph picks up on the fact Morgan could be hauled in front of his TV executives to explain what he knows about the scandal.

Crucially when he was contacted directly by The Express last night, Morgan “declined to comment.”

Piers Morgan: Britain’s Got Hacking

Piers Morgan's Diaries - The InsiderThe above is Piers Morgan’s own diary entry from a decade ago, dated January 26, 2001. It is taken from his 2005 account of his days in newspaper journalism, The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade:

“Apparently if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages. I’ll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick.”

So Piers admits it made him wonder if celebrities were aware of “this little trick”. In March 2002, just one year later, this “little trick” was used by the Daily Mirror against Sven and Ulrika to produce a story that won the “Scoop of the Year” at the British Press Awards the following year.  Piers Morgan was at that time the Daily Mirror’s editor…

Across the Atlantic the Morgan hacking story is spreading with  Drudge pushing it, as are:

More follows…



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Quote of the Day

Charles Clarke says Cameron is the most successful PM for over a century…

“Under Margaret Thatcher the Conservatives gained 99 seats. They lost 211 under John Major, gained one under William Hague, quickly and wisely got rid of Ian Duncan-Smith, gained 32 under Michael Howard and have so far gained 133 under David Cameron who, to the great surprise of many (including senior Conservatives), has turned out to be the most electorally successful Tory leader since 1900.”

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