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Former Sun editor expresses doubt over Andy Coulson’s phone-hacking denials

December 1st, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Newspapers, Politics

Former editor of the Sun David Yelland has cast further doubt over the claim by Downing Street director of communications Andy Coulson that he was in the dark about illegal phone-hacking at the News of the World during his time as editor.

Yelland, who was editor of the Sun for five years until 2003 and has edited another of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, the New York Post, told an audience of students at last week’s Coventry Conversations: “I can’t believe a fellow editor would not know phone tapping was in action.”

It is understood that Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was sent to prison last year for his part in the News of the World’s phone-hacking operations, was paid around £100,000 by the newspaper for aiding in hacking celebriti Yelland told the audience he believed that any sum more than £1,000 would have to be signed off by someone “in deep carpet land”.

“It would be impossible for anyone at News International to not know what was going on”, he added.

Yelland’s comments will undoubtedly not be welcomed by Murdoch, who owns News Corporation, parent company of the News of the World. Yelland claimed to hold Murdoch in high esteem, calling him the “best newspaper proprietor of all time” and said that he had a close relationship with him during his time at the Sun and the Post. “He has a genuine interest in newspapers. Murdoch is rooted in newspapers and lives, eats and breathes them”.

Yelland’s talk was surprisingly open and on the record (see a live blog at cutoday.wordpress.com; podcast at www.coventtry.ac.uk/itunesU). He talked in detail about heavy drinking, which had started at Coventry and got worse during his career. He recalled drinking binges followed by sleep and a fourteen hour day in the newsroom as a regular cycle.

Yelland blamed one of his biggest mistakes as editor – allowing a front page headline about Britain being run by a ‘Gay mafia’ – on having been drunk in Dublin that day. Homophobia was not his scene, he said. He was mortified when he sobered up and read that headline and story. He later he checked himself into rehab and stopped drinking 2005 when he found out that his wife, from whom he was divorced, was dying of breast cancer. He is still teetotal now.

A worse mistake than the headline though, he said, was printing a topless picture of the soon-to-be Countess Of Wessex Sophie Rhys Jones. He did not say if it happened under the influence. Printing the picture lost over half a million copies over night, according to Yelland, and prompted an icy call from Murdoch. “It probably cost us ten million pounds.”

After five years as editor Yelland stepped out of the firing line of popular tabloid journalism and moved, via the Harvard Business School, into public relations. Today he is a partner at PR firm Brunswick and has represented the likes of BP during the Gulf oil spill scandal this summer and Lord Browne, the former BP CEO on his recent review into university fees. PR suits David down to the ground, he said. As a commander of information he is in his element being counsel to clients. Personal integrity in both journalism and PR is key, he advised the assemble students. “Once you’ve lost your personal integrity,” says David, “you’re gone.” Ambition and a determination to prove people wrong kept me going says David.

John Mair is a senior lecturer in broadcasting at Coventry University and producer of the Coventry Conversations series. The talks series has just won the Cecil Angel Cup of 2010 for enhancing the reputation of the university.

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Dominic Mohan named editor of the Sun

August 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Jobs, Journalism, Newspapers, Online Journalism

Dominic Mohan has been appointed the new editor of the Sun, News International confirmed earlier today.

Mohan, who has worked at the Sun for 13 years, most recently as deputy editor, will become the seventh editor of the red-top since Rupert Murdoch bought the Sun 40 years ago.

Mohan joined the Sun from the News of the World and worked on its showbiz column, Bizarre, in 1996. He was promoted to editor two years later, taking the helm in 1998. Bizarre’s longest serving editor, he left after five years to write a weekly opinion column.

Before Mohan was deputy editor, he spent three years as associate editor, features, and prior to that, two years as assistant editor.

“I believe the Sun is the best paper on the planet. It is a privilege to take over as editor and I cannot wait to get started,” said Mohan, commenting on his appointment.

The vacancy arose when Rebekah Brooks was appointed as News International chief executive in June. Brooks said Mohan had been an ‘outstanding leader at the paper, supporting me with energy and enthusiasm’.

“He has an unrivalled understanding of what makes the paper tick and a real grasp of what makes a great Sun headline. I am delighted to be handing the reins over to such a talented successor. I look forward to continuing to work with him in my new role,” she added.

Both Rebekah Brooks and Dominic Mohan will be starting in their new roles on September 2.

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Press Gazette: Dutch court says tapping of journalist’s phone was illegal

July 28th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

Jolande van der Graaf, a De Telegraaf journalist, who had her phone tapped by Holland’s secret service after report using leaked government information, won her case last week.

A Dutch court ruled that the tapping of both van der Graafe and her editor-in-chief’s phones was unlawful.

AIVD, the country’s secret service, is expected to appeal the decision, which provides an interesting contrast to the recently reported ‘phone hacking’ activities of the News of the World.

Full post at this link…

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Was Sarah Brown a Fabulous guest editor?

July 20th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Magazines, Newspapers

After weeks of waiting with baited breath, the special edition of the News of the World Sunday, magazine guest-edited by First Lady Sarah Brown, offered plenty of real-life stories about baby-making but no stolen glimpses of Mrs Brown’s home life with the Prime Minister.

Yesterday’s edition of Fabulous magazine promoted the work of Wellbeing of Women (WoW), a charity aimed at raising awareness of women’s health, of which Brown is a patron.

The edition featured an ‘exclusive interview‘, conducted by Brown, with the wife of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on her battle with infertility to produce three daughters. Jools Oliver gave birth to the star chef’s third child, Petal, last April, only two days after her husband cooked for the G20 world leaders at Downing Street.

In the Q&A-format interview, Oliver, 34, talked candidly to Brown about the physical and emotional challenges of undergoing fertility treatment. A three-spread feature portrayed other women, who conceived with the help of WoW.

The charity wants to raise £500,000 for a special research programme to help improve women’s reproductive and gynaecological health – £10,000 has already been donated by Fabulous.

Brown is said to have personally chosen the topics which would inspire readers to become involved with WoW. The special edition homed in on the message by featuring fashion and accessory items themed round the colour purple, WoW’s trademark colour, and going as far as including a travel feature on ‘The best baby-making breaks’. TV doctor Hilary Jones covered women’s health issues often considered ‘taboo’.

MediaGuardian deputy editor Vicky Frost, commented through her blog today that there was too much of WoW and too little of Brown’s life:

“I’m not saying she needed to star in the fashion shoot – although that really would have been fabulous – but what about a one-pager about life with her own kids, or healthy dinners she cooks,” Frost said.

The only information the PM’s life gave away in her guest-edited edition was that when it comes to their children’s education, Gordon who plays good cop.

Despite being described as the most accessible No 10 wife and a natural networker, Sarah Brown was a PR supremo before she married Gordon.

On Twitter, under username @SarahBrown10, the First Lady is known to mainly tweet supporting messages for her charities and talk excitedly about her home-grown strawberries – but not a single snippet of information about politics or her family life will slip out.

The News of the World had been tantalising its readers with banners showing Mrs Brown’s photo with the strapline ‘I will wow readers‘ leading up to the guest-edited magazine’s publication. If readers were led into thinking Mrs Brown would make exclusive revelations about her personal life, they were in for a disappointment. As her tweets testify, she prefers to portray her day-to-day as being fairly homely and mundane: “Have emerged from a weekend of gardening, baking cakes and cookies.”

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MediaGuardian: Max Clifford plans legal action over NOTW phone hacking

July 14th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

Another update on the News of the World ‘phone hacking’ story – celebrity publicist is to launching legal action against the paper to expose any actions taken to intercept messages left on his mobile phone, reports Nick Davies.

Full story at this link…

See Journalism.co.uk’s coverage of the phone hacking allegations at this link.

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Comment is Free: Phone hacking – select committee must move quickly, says Paul Farrelly

July 10th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Legal

Paul Farrelly, member of the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee, says the committee had to react quickly to the Guardian’s revelations about alleged phone hacking by the News of the World – but acknowledges that ‘the Guardian story has a long pedigree’.

Farrelly adds that the committee will be pursuing the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) further over its phone hacking investigations to date.

Full article at this link…

See Journalism.co.uk’s coverage of the phone hacking allegations at this link.

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Who will the PCC question at NOTW if it re-opens investigation into phone hacking?

July 9th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Legal

Will the PCC question News of the World’s Stuart Kuttner, who yesterday stepped down as the paper’s managing director, if it re-opens the investigation into phone hacking?

[Update 10.07.09: News International said the ‘departure of managing editor Stuart Kuttner has no connection whatsoever’ with events referred to in a statement]

In evidence given to the House of Commons culture select committee in April, Nick Davies criticised the PCC for failing to hold the News of the World to account on charges of phone hacking:

Mr Davies: If you say to [Andy] Coulson, “Come and give evidence even though you are no longer an editor” and if he says, “No” then that is an interesting tactical failure on his part. It is not just the editor of the paper; what about the managing editor? Why not call Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor of the News of the World, who has been there for years and who has a special responsibility for contracts and money? Why not call him to give evidence? There was a real will on the part of the PCC to avoid uncovering the truth about phone hacking.”

The PCC is now looking at the case again in light of Nick Davies’ exclusive report for the Guardian and could re-open the investigation. So who will they question?

Stuart Kuttner, as Davies suggested? “Kuttner will remain at the News of the World part time to work on special projects for the tabloid, including its Sarah’s Law campaign,” the Guardian reported yesterday.

The PCC decided not to question former News of the World editor Andy Coulson (as we write, he is still the Conservative Party’s communications director) for its 2007 inquiry, citing that he was not longer ‘answerable to the PCC’.  But would they question Kuttner, in his new part-time role?

In 2007 the PCC stated in its report on subterfuge and newsgathering:

“Despite Mr Myler’s [new News of the World editor] appointment, the question arose whether the PCC should ask Mr Coulson to give an account of what had gone wrong. The PCC decided not to do so. Given that the PCC does not – and should not – have statutory powers of investigation and prosecution, there could be no question of trying to duplicate the lengthy police investigation. Furthermore, Mr Coulson was, following his resignation, no longer answerable to the PCC, whose jurisdiction covers journalists working for publications that subscribe to the self-regulatory system through the Press Standards Board of Finance.

“As a result, that part of the investigation involving the News of the World was conducted by the Director of the PCC with Mr Myler.  The Chairman of the Commission also discussed the matter on a number of occasions with the Chief Executive of News International, Mr Les Hinton.”

The PCC stated today:

“Any suggestion that further transgressions have occurred since its report was published in 2007 will be investigated without delay. In the meantime, the PCC is contacting the Guardian newspaper and the Information Commissioner for any further specific information in relation to the claims, published today about the older cases, which suggest the Commission has been misled at any stage of its inquiries into these matters.”

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Nick Davies told Commons committee in April that PCC phone hacking inquiry flawed

July 9th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Legal

You may recall that back in April Nick Davies gave evidence to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee, for its review into press standards, privacy and libel.

In the course of that session he claimed there was ‘a real will on the part of the PCC [Press Complaints Commission] to avoid uncovering the truth about phone hacking’ and that newspapers still used private investigators: “It is wrong but they are not doing anything about it and that continues despite Motorman [investigation undertaken by the Information Commissioner’s Office into alleged offences under data protection legislation.] All that has happened is that they have got a little bit more careful about it. I actually got to know that network of private investigators who were exposed in Motorman. Years after that I was in the office of one of them and he was taking phone calls from newspapers while I was there.”

The committee chairman, John Whittingdale, said: “We did do an investigation both into Motorman and into Goodman so I do not want to revisit old ground too much”.

The same committee which today announced it will open a new inquiry ‘into the Guardian revelations about the use of illegal surveillance techniques by News International newspapers’ (Guardian.co.uk).

Yesterday Nick Davies’ Guardian exclusive – which reported Murdoch papers paid £1m to silence victims of phone hacking – alleged that the evidence posed difficult questions for the PCC: it has ‘claimed to have conducted an investigation, but failed to uncover any evidence of illegal activity,’ it was reported.

Davies is no friend of the Press Complaints Commission – as reported on Journalism.co.uk before – and used his appearance in front of the committee in April to argue that the ‘PCC’s performance is so weak that it threatens the concept of self-regulation.’

The PCC has stated today, in light of the new reports, that ‘any suggestion that further transgressions have occurred since its report was published in 2007 will be investigated without delay.’

Now, let’s look back at Davies’ comments in the Commons in April (from uncorrected evidence on House of Commons site). Davies laid the bait for us all, but it would seem only he pursued his allegations against News of the World, to secure yesterday’s scoop:

Mr Davies: It is that word that Roy [Greenslade] has just used that is the important one, their independence. They [PCC] are not sufficiently independent to do their job properly; they are not functioning as an independent referee. You could see it, for example, in the way they handled the Clive Goodwin [sic] story. There are newspapers publishing stories all over Fleet Street; there is a whole lot of hacking going on, hacking into mobile phones. They conducted an inquiry which was set up in such a way that it could not possibly disclose the truth about that illegal activity. Why? Why did they not conduct a proper, independent inquiry? It was the same with the information commissioner after Operation Motorman. We used the Freedom of Information Act on the information commissioner and got hold if the e-mails and letters between the commissioner and the Press Complaints Commission. You can see there the information commissioner saying, “Look, we have just busted this private eye. It is horrifying what newspapers are doing. Will you put out a clear warning to these journalists that they must obey the law?” The short answer was, “No, not if we can help it”. You may be familiar with all this —–

Q435 Chairman: We had an inquiry into Motorman.

Mr Davies: Did you have the e-mails and so on?

Q436 Chairman: We had representatives of News International and so on.

(…)

Mr Davies: Also, when he [Paul Dacre] goes into hospital to have operations on his heart, there is always a message sent round Fleet Street saying, “Mr Dacre’s in hospital, please do not report it”. Medical records are supposed to be plundered by Harry Hack with beer on his breath and egg on his tie. It is wrong but they are not doing anything about it and that continues despite Motorman. All that has happened is that they have got a little bit more careful about it. I actually got to know that network of private investigators who were exposed in Motorman. Years after that I was in the office of one of them and he was taking phone calls from newspapers while I was there. It has not stopped; it has just got a bit more careful. It had got so casual that every reporter in the newsroom was allowed to ring up and commission illegal access to confidential information, now they have pulled it back so that you have to get the news editor to do it or the news desk’s permission. It is still going on and it is against the law.

Q446 Paul Farrelly: Do you think the PCC missed a trick with its own standing reputation in not summoning Mr Coulson?

Mr Greenslade: I wrote at the time and have maintained ever since that the Goodman affair was a very, very black moment in the history of the PCC. This man was jailed for breaking the law. His editor immediately resigned but there were huge questions to ask about the culture of the News of the World newsroom which only the man in charge of that newsroom could answer. When I challenged the PCC about why they had failed to call Mr Coulson they said that he was no longer a member of the press. That seems to me to be a complete abnegation of the responsibilities of the PCC for the public good. In other words, to use a phrase Nick has already used, it was getting off with a technicality.

Mr Davies: If you say to Coulson, “Come and give evidence even though you are no longer an editor” and if he says, “No” then that is an interesting tactical failure on his part. It is not just the editor of the paper; what about the managing editor? Why not call Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor of the News of the World, who has been there for years and who has a special responsibility for contracts and money? Why not call him to give evidence? There was a real will on the part of the PCC to avoid uncovering the truth about phone hacking.

Q447 Chairman: We did do an investigation both into Motorman and into Goodman so I do not want to revisit old ground too much.

Mr Davies: It is what it tells you about the PCC.

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Myler on Mosley: ‘I make no apologies for publishing that story as editor’

May 5th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Legal

Colin Myler, News of the World, was up in front of a House of Commons select committee today, as part of an inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel.

Unsurprisingly Myler and News Group Newspapers’ lawyer Tom Crone were questioned about the Max Mosley case – though, as a new writ has been issued against the paper by Mosley, some responses had to be curtailed.

Nevertheless, some good nuggets from Myler and Crone on the consequences of publishing the story and why the NOTW broke it:

  • The costs of the Mosley trial came to around £900,000 with £100,000 damages, according to Crone.
  • Myler:

“Mr Mosley made quite a case that he’d never sought publicity, that he was a private person. I disagree with that fundamentally.

“For a man in his position (…) who so wrecklessly put himself in the hands of five prostitutes (…) you have to say you played some part in your own downfall.”

  • Myler: “Rarely in these situations are there any commercial benefits despite what people might think.”
  • A family newspaper: “I don’t agree that it was an unsuitable story for a family newspaper. Some people might sneer and say that we are scurrilous and scaberous but we are who we are. I make no apologies for publishing that story as editor.
  • Chilling effect of Mosley case? “I don’t think it’s had a chilling effect. It’s had a very practical effect on me as an editor and how you conduct yourself (…) I spend as much time talking to lawyers as I do journalists.

    “It doesn’t mean to say that you shy away, it means that you have to be equally diligent, efficient and careful and get very good legal advice.”

Myler also went on to discuss the issue of ‘celebrity stings’ by the NOTW, saying that while journalist Mazher Mahmood was widely known as the ‘fake sheikh’, he is also ‘one of the most professional newspaper journalists in the world’.

“He has been responsible for convicting and jailing 232 criminals. This is a man that puts himself in great danger and does so with such a professional aplomb that any media organisation would be proud to be associated with it,” he said.

Mahmood’s talents, said Myler, as increasingly being used for stories on immigration and religious radicalism: “There is some serious journalism within the News of the World.”

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More from Dacre: The Daily Mail editor on Max Mosley and ‘Flat Earth News’

April 23rd, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Legal

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has made his thoughts about Justice Eady, the Human Rights Act and the Max Mosley privacy case against the News of the World pretty clear since giving his Society of Editors speech last year, but today he was given the chance to follow up on Mosley’s own comments to the commons select committee on press standards, privacy and freedom.

(And have his say he was most definitely going to – reminding the committee several times of the length of time they’d given Mosley to speak, until one member asked whether he felt he was being treated differently?)

“Mr Mosley, when he gave evidence to this committee, I was very surprised at the soft time you gave him,” said Dacre.

“For Max Mosley to present himself as a knight in shining armour, proclaiming (…) sanctimonious, self-righteousness is almost a surreal inversion of the normal values of civilised society.”

It’s ‘a bit like the Yorkshire ripper campaigning against men who batter women’, he added.

The ruling against the News of the World and in favour of Mosley made the government’s stance on brothels and prostitution problematic, he said.

While brothels are seen by the government as ‘unacceptable and totally wrong’ and requiring a law to prosecute the people that run them, ‘Justice Eady has said Mosley’s behaviour is merely unconventional not illegal’, said Dacre.

“One legitimises the other,” he said.

The Daily Mail would not have broken the Mosley story, because it is a family paper, he said, even if it had ‘fallen into the paper’s lap’ as one committee member suggested. However, Dacre said he would defend the NOTW’s right to publish it.

Nick Davies

Today’s hearing was also a chance for Dacre to respond to claims made by journalist and ‘Flat Earth News’ author Nick Davies at a committee session on Tuesday.

Summised by the committee chair, Davies said the Daily Mail was characterised by a level of ruthless aggression and spite far greater than any other newspaper in Fleet Street.

“Davies is one of those people who sees conspiracy in everything. Like many people who write for the Guardian he believes he is the only one who can claim the moral high ground,” said Dacre.

“The book doesn’t do himself or our industry any justice.”

The book, he added, had been written ‘without the basic journalistic courtesy of checking the allegations concerned’.

Dacre accepted that there is some ‘churnalism’ of press releases at a provincial and national level – driven largely by poor finances and lack of resources, but said he refutes the charge of the Daily Mail.

“I’d suggest the Daily Mail is both famous and infamous for taking Whitehall and government press releases and going behind them. Certainly our reporters when they get freelance copy make their own inquiries and take them further,” he said.

“Our spending on journalism today is as great as ever, despite the recession. Mr Davies makes a valid point about some areas of the media. I think strong areas of the media, including some of our competitors, are not guilty of this charge.”

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