GOTCHA

by Kieran Healy on July 7, 2011

Tabloid Shutters Doors.

Brooks Cries Crocodile Tears as Reporters Go Home Jobless to Tots.

Union Scum Pick Fight at Sun.

Filthy Rich Editor Weeps in Chelsea Townhouse.

{ 54 comments }

1

Myles 07.07.11 at 8:33 pm

Cheers to that.

2

Kieran Healy 07.07.11 at 8:38 pm

I’ve barely been following this, but—so far–it does seem quite a political achievement for Brooks to have News International choose to shut down the NOTW rather than sack her.

3

Tomboktu 07.07.11 at 8:39 pm

Oh, the phrase, the phrase: “Bertie Ahern, the former News of the World columnist”.

4

Myles 07.07.11 at 9:02 pm

I’ve barely been following this, but—so far–it does seem quite a political achievement for Brooks to have News International choose to shut down the NOTW rather than sack her.

I wonder if this will drag the Times down with it. The Sun will survive unscathed, but the Times would presumably be more sensitive to massive illegality of this nature.

5

dsquared 07.07.11 at 9:12 pm

it does seem quite a political achievement for Brooks to have News International choose to shut down the NOTW rather than sack her

Not so much political as economic. Brooks is a “senior officer” of NI for UK regulatory purposes, and if she were to be found implicated (and sacking her would be a tacit admission), then it would raise the question of whether NI was a “fit and proper” owner of BSkyB, for the purposes of OfCom approving NI’s buyout of the remaining public stake. She is the one essential person here.

6

Adrian Kelleher 07.07.11 at 9:47 pm

All the revelations about the NoTW have been common knowledge in UK media circles for a generation, and it doesn’t end at phone hacking. Known as “the dark arts”, practitioners can access a vast array of information about anyone.

A typical technique would be to phone a particular extension at a bank or a an insurance company and ask for “an F10 on John Smith of 19 Leafy Park” (or whatever); by exhibiting inside knowledge of the systems and accessing contact points not known publicly they are able to bypass operators’ defenses. Phone tapping etc. occurs commonly.

Private Eye has reported on this sort of thing for years. Newswipe did a segment on it also featuring Nick Davies (S01E06 — ca. 19 mins in). Don’t be put off by the style, btw, Newswipe and its more general predecessor Screen Wipe are both excellent. Between The Guardian or the Financial Times, the BBC etc. on one hand and the likes of the NoTW on the other, the UK has the best and the worst media in the world.

7

Barry Freed 07.07.11 at 9:56 pm

Thanks D^2 that was the single best and succinct explanation for why she’s being kept on that I’ve seen.

8

PapushiSun 07.07.11 at 10:23 pm

Andy Coulson’s being arrested tomorrow.

9

christian_h 07.07.11 at 10:26 pm

I’d be very surprised if this move to limit the damage works and Brooks manages to hang on much longer. The bribery of police officers in particular looks like it might do further damage.

10

Pete 07.07.11 at 11:00 pm

The campaign to demand advertisers boycott NOTW appears to have been extremely effective. It should be carried over to anything Brooks continues to be involved in. (I’m tempted to say “remember Huntingdon Life Sciences”, but that is too far).

Apparently there’s been a £2bn drop in the value of News Corp, which presumably represents the value lost by no longer owning the British establishment. Also I’ve seen a claim that they hired a former Director of Public Prosecutions to work on their side of the case, so presumably they bought him previously.

The inquiries will be whitewashes and no senior police will go to jail despite the obvious bribery and corruption. One or two officers might be thrown under the bus.

11

EWI 07.07.11 at 11:05 pm

@ Kieran

It’s a cynical attempt at creating a firebreak between the NotW and the Murdochs’ other interests. The shredders will surely be busy this weekend.

12

EWI 07.07.11 at 11:07 pm

@ Pete

Don’t forget the lead police detective on the original (whitewashed) investigation, another Murdock hire subsequently…

13

LeeEsq 07.07.11 at 11:14 pm

Myles, Jonathan Chait at the New Republic thinks that the Times will be dragged down with News of the World because it operates on a loss rather than at profit.

14

Myles 07.07.11 at 11:17 pm

Myles, Jonathan Chait at the New Republic thinks that the Times will be dragged down with News of the World because it operates on a loss rather than at profit.

I suppose it’s inevitable that Murdoch will corrupt whatever good thing he comes to own. Still, better to end the misery of the Times becoming a Murdoch tabloid now rather than drag it out.

15

bert 07.07.11 at 11:23 pm

People remember “Gotcha!” as coming from Kelvin MacKenzie.
But it was actually Wendy Henry, who went on to edit the NOTW.
I think we can blame tabloid culture in general for the fact that the very few women who rise to the top in it are such utter bitches.
The picture of Rebekah Brooks they’re using on the front of this morning’s Guardian and FT is priceless. She’s still got the same baleful, calculating, reptilian stare, but there’s something going on behind the eyes.
She looks spooked.

16

John Quiggin 07.07.11 at 11:37 pm

In terms of the general logic of scandal, I think NOTW has been thrown overboard too early to save Brooks and News from more grief

17

bert 07.08.11 at 12:40 am

dsquared, your rationale makes total sense. But there is a political explanation, which could easily run alongside it. MPs are already making accusations of criminal conduct against people at the very top of NewsCorp. The same laws that have already sent two people to prison include clear language about the duty of supervising executives. It’s safe to assume that Brooks has the material at her disposal to bring James Murdoch a world of pain. In his position, would you be willing to bet she wouldn’t use it?

18

Barry Freed 07.08.11 at 12:45 am

Apparently there’s been a £2bn drop in the value of News Corp, which presumably represents the value lost by no longer owning the British establishment.

Really? Where did you see that? I’m checking the stock price and there strangely didn’t seem to be much movement on it today.

JQ – I certainly hope so.

19

P O'Neill 07.08.11 at 1:14 am

Hillsborough.

It took a long time and it’s still not the right title going under.

But Liverpool knew 20 years ago what the values in this organisation were.

20

PHB 07.08.11 at 1:22 am

Unfortunately the celebration may be premature as it seems that the Sun is planning to move from a 6 day to a 7 day schedule. So in effect the News of the World is simply rebranding as the Sun.

The Sun’s infamous headline ‘Its the Sun wot won it’ is one of the reasons I got involved in the Web. I did not see a good reason that an Austrialian billionaire should get to choose the UK government. When I met Tim Berners-Lee in 1992 I could see a way to get back at Murdoch. At the time the Web was still small, about 100 users.

The original idea of ‘disintermediation’ was that the Web would provide a feedback mechanism. So that people would get to see what was really going on unfiltered by the lies of Fleet Street and thus Fleet Street might think twice about lying.

In practice it has turned out very differently, particularly in the US. The lies have got worse and so has the bias. Instead of mending their ways and not lying, the press has continued on as before and lost readers at an alarming rate. The New York Times is quick to blame EBay for their loss of revenue, but have they ever stopped to think that maybe their infamous Iraq coverage has at least something to do with it?

Every week there is a glowing biography of a Republican in the NYT. Every week there are more Republicans than Democrats on the Sunday talk shows. Quite often there are no Democrats from Congress at all. What passes for ‘objectivity’ in US journalism really means ‘don’t annoy customers by telling the truth’. So the NYT will never print stories that will upset supporters of AIPAC, the IRA, Republicans, Labor or any other well organized lobby that might organize against them.

People that care about truth have stopped buying the product. So far from making the press more truthful it has made them ore free to peddle lies because they don’t need to worry about complaints after the readers stop reading.

21

Henry 07.08.11 at 1:23 am

LeeEsq – it’s not Chait but a guest blogger, operating under the remarkable delusion that the Times/Sunday Times is still the “paper of record” in the UK (he used to write for ‘em so it’s perhaps not surprising).

22

Lee A. Arnold 07.08.11 at 1:26 am

I have spoken to a few Australians over the years who said that ruining peoples’ lives for sensational headlines was something of an original Murdoch modus operandi. Is this true?

23

boconnor 07.08.11 at 2:44 am

Close it down, move the bank balances to the parent, therefore no money to pay out lawsuits?

24

snuh 07.08.11 at 2:48 am

yes lee, it is. the “class we failed” thing was particularly egregious.

25

snuh 07.08.11 at 2:51 am

boconnor, the NOTW website says it is/was published by News Group Newspapers Ltd, which is the same company that publishes The Sun and presumably remains very able to meet judgment on any lawsuit.

26

Jon H 07.08.11 at 3:01 am

I’m hoping that, by closing NOTW, they dispose of a lightning rod that had been taking all the hits. Any further revelations will directly hit News International and News Corp.

But I also hope the UK powers that be have the sense to put everything at NOTW’s offices under lock and key to prevent a shred party this weekend.

27

nick s 07.08.11 at 3:20 am

The Tory front bench has actually been waving ‘fit and proper’ as their escape clause, arguing that ‘media plurality’ is the only basis on which they can make a decision on the BSkyB takeover that would avoid judicial review, but that Ofcom has the right to adjudge whether News Corp is fit to hold the broadcasting licence.

I don’t know where Nick Davies’ sources came from, but the information on the Dowler case, as opposed to some of the other alleged hacking incidents, seems to have been precisely designed to force the middle-market papers to pick a side. They might have shoved the odd brown envelope to Benji Pell for some bin-rooting or tapped up a copper from time to time, but they couldn’t afford to be silent on that one.

28

Ian Milliss 07.08.11 at 4:03 am

JQ,@15 I agree, premature evacuation, and I also agree with bert@16, I suspect Brookes has made it very clear that if she goes down it won’t just be the bSkyb bid that goes with her, it will also be James and Rupert themselves doing porridge. The real question is whether the politician will have the guts to kill off the monster once and for all. Miss this chance and they may never get another one, until off course climate change finally turns the whole human political charade into a dance of death.

29

dsquared 07.08.11 at 6:29 am

which presumably represents the value lost by no longer owning the British establishment

More represents the fact that the whole market has been a bit pony this week if you ask me …

30

john b 07.08.11 at 7:26 am

Adding to dsquared’s point about Brooks and the takeover, sacking Brooks would also raise serious questions about the competence/integrity (in the sense that it would be a tacit admission that he is either incompetent or unethical) of James Murdoch, who is Brooks’ boss. This would make it very hard to justify anointing James as the old man’s replacement at the News Corp helm – and with Lachlan already disgraced and Liz having no real news media experience, that ends any hopes of a dynasty.

31

John Quiggin 07.08.11 at 8:22 am

Just to be clear, Murdoch is not an Australian. He gave up his Oz citizenship when he needed US citizenship for one of his takeovers. The rules were changed afterwards to allow dual citizenship, but amazingly there was no retrospective application for Rupert.

32

CMK 07.08.11 at 10:22 am

If Coulson goes down in England for police corruption, and once he’s finished his sentence can he then be tried in Scotland for perjury during the Sheridan case? Will the respective cases be tried concurrently or consecutively? I’m sure the prospect of a couple of years in HMP Barlinnie is beginning to weigh very heavily on Coulson’s mind.

33

Adrian Kelleher 07.08.11 at 10:38 am

Nick Davies lambasts the Metropolitan Police for inaction and timidity in the past and praises what seems a mammoth investigation now.

@PHB

I’ve knocked the press generally for years but the depth of the rot in the Irish newspapers only became clear in the last few years. They still fill up the pages, something of a rudimentary skill, but their floundering bafflement during the economic crisis shows they no longer have the resources for real analysis or investigative journalism. AFAIK it’s the same nearly everywhere. My brother heaps scorn on the NY Times also. Summaries of what’s on twitter would never have broken Watergate.

34

chris y 07.08.11 at 11:01 am

Coulson has now been arrested, but it’s not clear if he’s been charged or with what. Cameron seems to be running to put clear blue water between them.

35

bert 07.08.11 at 12:39 pm

Here’s the photo I mentioned.
There are plenty of questions about her decision-making. Add ‘dressing like Cruella de Vil’ to the list.

There’s an alternative explanation that doesn’t tally with dsquared’s.
Further bad news days are already in the calendar. The results of the new police inquiry above all. Then the public inquiries after that. Her head on a stick may be something they want to keep in reserve for what’s yet to come.

36

dsquared 07.08.11 at 12:43 pm

just with respect to that #6, I have been informed by folks in the know that “it’s more complicated than that”[tm]. Apparently the OfCom rules on fitness and properness don’t work in the same way as the FSA ones, which I also might have misunderstood. Brooks is definitely a key person, and sacking her would materially complicate the deal, but she is not wholly unsackable.

37

jim 07.08.11 at 12:43 pm

One remark: Wade Brooks and Murdoch used identical language in their non-denial denials: “It is inconceivable that …” which suggests at least their lawyers are still collaborating.

38

Jon H 07.08.11 at 12:43 pm

Brooks has certainly set gingers back.

39

Chris E 07.08.11 at 1:27 pm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/08/phone-hacking-emails-news-international

Could pose a problem wrt #6 – if indeed it’s a NI executive.

40

ajay 07.08.11 at 1:33 pm

But I also hope the UK powers that be have the sense to put everything at NOTW’s offices under lock and key to prevent a shred party this weekend.

It may be a bit late for that.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/08/phone-hacking-emails-news-international
“Police are investigating evidence that a News International executive may have deleted millions of emails from an internal archive, in an apparent attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard’s inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal…”

41

ajay 07.08.11 at 1:34 pm

Sorry, Chris.

42

john b 07.08.11 at 1:39 pm

Jim: I’m assuming whoever drafted those denials had never seen The Princess Bride. Although I’d prefer to think that they had.

43

NomadUK 07.08.11 at 3:00 pm

Brooks has certainly set gingers back.

Nah; Nicole Kidman, Emma Watson, Kirsten Dunst, Christina Hendricks — these alone more than compensate.

“Police are investigating evidence that a News International executive may have deleted millions of emails from an internal archive, in an apparent attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard’s inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal…”

So, where are their off-site backups stored? And is anyone grabbing them? Or doing forensics on their internal drives? Hitting the delete button means nothing.

44

Pete 07.08.11 at 3:19 pm

@NomadUK: I hear that the evidence of the attempt to delete email came from an outside contractor, who may well have a copy of the relevant data..

45

LeeEsq 07.08.11 at 3:40 pm

Henry, thank you for the correction.

46

Cian O'Connor 07.08.11 at 3:57 pm

So, where are their off-site backups stored? And is anyone grabbing them? Or doing forensics on their internal drives? Hitting the delete button means nothing.

Most large companies have pretty robust procedures for destroying data. Which isn’t to say that they were followed.

47

rea 07.08.11 at 4:35 pm

There are plenty of questions about her decision-making. Add ‘dressing like Cruella de Vil’ to the list.

My goodness, she really is wearing a Dalmatian-skin coat.

48

Adrian Kelleher 07.08.11 at 5:01 pm

God, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse:

From The Guardian’s Liveblog on the affair:

Statement from the Guardian on the information it gave to the government regarding Andy Coulson

Before the general election the Guardian contacted all three party leaders to tell them of certain facts about Andy Coulson which the Guardian could not at that stage report.

In a telephone call around February 25th, Guardian deputy editor Ian Katz told the prime minister’s director of strategy Steve Hilton a number of details about the case of Jonathan Rees, a private detective who had worked for the News of the World, which the paper had been unable to publish due to ongoing legal proceedings. These included:

• Rees’s name – he had been described in a Guardian report published online on February 24th and in the paper edition of February 25th only as “Mr A”

• The fact that he was awaiting trial for a murder in which the victim was found in a pub car park with an axe in his head

• The fact that Rees had been jailed for seven years for conspiring to frame a woman by placing cocaine in her car, after which he had been rehired by Coulson’s News of the World.

• The fact that Rees’s illegal activities on behalf of the News of the World had been prominently reported in the Guardian before he was rehired under Coulson.

None of these details was included in any report for several months until after the collapse of Rees’s trial in March 2011. The thrust of the conversation was that Rees was a murder suspect who had been involved in massive corruption on behalf of the News of the World of which Coulson could not have been unaware. The Guardian understands No 10 chief of staff Edward Llewelyn was informed of this conversation.

Downing Street’s reference to the private detective working for Panorama is baffling and irrelevant to how the Rees information was handled. There was no suggestion that Rees ever had any connection with Panorama until March 2011, many months after No 10 was told the details of the Rees case.

49

harry b 07.08.11 at 11:38 pm

CMK, for what its worth, Sherdan’s lawyer and Tom Watson MP are already pushing hard on this. My understanding is that he can be tried concurrently. Let’s hope so.

50

Ian Milliss 07.09.11 at 2:10 am

Let’s hope this turns out to be the case http://bit.ly/148uX

51

David X. Cameron 07.09.11 at 2:29 am

Yes I knew Andy Coulson was the kind of man I wanted, but I strenuously deny that there was any way that I could have had any inkling that he could be exposed as the kind of man I wanted.

52

John Quiggin 07.09.11 at 10:35 am

Then there’s the civil liability to the victims of phone hacking. The figure of 4000 commonly cited seems only to refer to the owners of the phones. But everyone who left a message on a hacked phone was affected. That’s a huge class, which must surely include enough Americans to form the basis of a case in the US courts. Take, say, 100 000 plaintiffs, add in punitive damages, and you’ve got enough to put NI into liquidation.

53

Chris E 07.09.11 at 7:36 pm

Given that Brooks admitted paying off the police – why isn’t she already subject to prosecution? Wasn’t that always on the books as an offence?

54

e julius drivingstorm 07.13.11 at 1:51 am

@51

Can’t you just issue a blanket pardon for your friends in the UK like we do in the States?

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