Monday, September 06, 2010


This is brewing to be a fascinating scandal. Allegedly, the former managing editor of the British tabloid, the Weekly News, encouraged his reporters to get dirt on celebrities and public officials -- including the two sons of Prince Charles. The News of the World, owned by Robert Murdoch, is politically influential and made no secret of its preference for the Conservative Party in the last election. The former managing editor, Andy Coulson, is now the chief communications officer of the Tories

Mr. Coulson, who was appointed editor of The News of the World in 2003, said that he had no knowledge of the hacking and that it was an isolated case, but resigned from the paper in January 2007 nonetheless.

Last year, The Guardian newspaper printed an article saying that hundreds of people might have been singled out by The News of the World and providing details about some of them, including Gordon Taylor, former chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, who reached a settlement of £700,000 with The News of the World over the hacking of his cellphone.

The Times Magazine article provided new details, quoting a former reporter, Sean Hoare, and a unnamed former editor at The News of the World as saying that Mr. Coulson was fully aware of the hacking. In an interview with BBC Radio 4 last week, Mr. Hoare called Mr. Coulson’s statement to a parliamentary committee denying that he knew about the phone hacking in his newsroom “a lie.”

More than a dozen reporters and editors formerly with The News of the World, interviewed for The Times article said their employer had fostered a culture of recklessness in which reporters were encouraged to use any means to get exclusive stories. The article also quoted senior Metropolitan Police officials saying that the police had failed to fully investigate The News of the World’s phone hacking in part because of Scotland Yard’s close ties to editors at the paper and executives at its parent company, News International.

Over the weekend, Tessa Jowell, a former Labour cabinet minister who is still a Parliament member, said that the police had told her that her phone messages had been intercepted at least 28 times while she was in the government. And The Independent on Sunday reported that Lord Mandelson, another senior Labour politician, also had his messages intercepted.


Meanwhile, The News of the World denied the Times’s allegations and accused it of publishing the magazine article in an effort to discredit a newspaper belonging to a “rival group” — that is, the media empire of Rupert Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch is the chairman of News Corporation, whose many media holdings include The News of the World, The Times of London and The Wall Street Journal.

Yesterday's story in the Magazine was even more elaborate, with allegations that Scotland Yard limited its investigation and hints of political motivation.

BY THE SPRING of this year, News International’s papers had firmly switched their support from Labour to the Tories. An avalanche of unforgiving coverage culminated on April 8, one month before the general election, in a Sun story headlined “Brown’s a Clown.” Brown’s strategists assumed that Murdoch’s motives were not purely ideological. They drew up a campaign document conjuring Murdoch’s wish list should David Cameron become prime minister. Among the top items they identified was the weakening of the government-financed BBC, one of Murdoch’s biggest competitors and long a target of criticism from News International executives. On May 11, David Cameron officially assumed the position and elevated Coulson to the head of communications. Within the week, Rupert Murdoch arrived at 10 Downing Street for a private meeting with the new prime minister. Cameron’s administration criticized the BBC in July for “extraordinary and outrageous waste” during difficult financial times and proposed cutting its budget.



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