Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Newsnight Hypnosis Revealed

WELL that's the James Murdoch resignation over, now for the serious stuff.

I'm afraid I've been rumbled.

Notes on James Murdoch's Resignation from News Int

James Murdoch (Pic by Reuters)
THERE was always the feeling at News International that James Murdoch's heart and soul was never in newspapers.
He came from the TV sector and he is now returning to it.
During his presentations to staff, it was all pie charts and graphs of profitability and market share but he conveyed non of the passion for journalism and print of his father.
For that reason, he was rather unkindly given the nickname of 'Murdoch Lite' at Wapping.
It is also a useful time to leave News International. Many of his subordinates would love to do so too but are finding themselves burdened with a News Int 'taint'.
I doubt he will regret leaving Wapping. It is a unique characteristic among those who do, that they feel unburdened. You never hear a former News Int staffer say, 'I wish I was back in Wapping'.
Every man has his passion and James Murdoch is now back with his. I wish him well.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

BBC Newsnight Link

FOR THOSE who missed it and want to see it, here is last night's BBC Newsnight interview.
Someone got spooked by what they have called my, ‘thousand yard stare’ at the camera at the beginning (left on the  'Sun on Sunday' Ushers in New Tabloid Era post)
Sorry about that. I’m afraid I didn’t realise we were live and was practising my Bela Lugosi impersonation and was caught on the hop.
If you have a look, count how many times Emily tries to put serious and significant words in my mouth and drop me a comment here on the blog.
Naughty Emily!

BBC Newsnight Interview - Payment of Sources

I STRUGGLE to believe people are as bewildered as the Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis that newspapers pay sources money for stories.

British national newspapers have been doing this for 150 years and advertise this fact in their newspapers every week.

So do the BBC. Interviews are paid for. Sources are paid for tips which make the news and documentaries.

Was I the only one to think she was being just a little naive in seeming to be so surprised?

What is important is whether or not the News of the World paid police officers, which can never be justified in law. And during my time on the newsdesk, no such payments were approved by me or sought from me.

It's a pity we didn't have more time to debate this important issue and interruptions hadn't halted important themes mid flow. Such as the payment of criminals.

The News of the World avoided paying criminals, in line with the Press Complaints Commission code.

But there were also many occasions when we did in order to expose a crime being committed by others and there is a very clear public interest clause in the PCC code for doing this.

The BBC's very own flagship documentary programme Panorama pays thousands of pounds to criminals to expose crime. Often the same underworld tipsters that I use myself.

As do the police themselves.

And long may that continue.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

'Sun on Sunday' Ushers in New Tabloid Era

Rupert Murdoch with today's first ever Sunday edition of the Sun
TODAY’S Sunday edition of the Sun ended up feeling a bit of a damp squib – very News of the World ‘Lite’.
But it’s set out its stall and is doing exactly what it says on the tin – trawling with a big net in the female market.
The paper is packed full of what women’s magazine journalists call or used to call (rather horribly I always thought) ‘womb tremblers’.
Amanda Holden’s birth ordeal , Harper Seven on the shoulders of dad David Beckham, ‘Agony of Murdered Nikitta’s Parents’, a brave war widow revealing she tragically miscarried just before her husband was killed, a grandmother’s love for her soccer star son and a girl reunited with her long lost dad.
All very worthy human interest stories. Female stories.
A total of 13 pages devoted to the staple fare of most women’s magazines. The Sun is leaving us in no doubt about its Sunday identity.
What we won’t be getting are investigations clearly. And the rest of Fleet Street won’t be waiting up late and holding its breath for revelations which will set the news agenda alight for the rest of the week.
But this is surely the type of tabloid paper we will be getting post Leveson, so in that respect it is setting the agenda other tabloids will follow.
It is so indistinguishable from the daily Sun that it will surely succeed in capturing many of its readers.
This product may disappoint died in the wool red-top Sunday journalists.
But that’s irrelevant. Today’s Sun is a commercial inevitability.
The News of the World is history. It’s not coming back.
The king is dead. Long live the queen.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Talking2Minds - The Ignition

MY OFFICIAL thanks to all the heaps of good wishes I received from friends, former colleagues and strangers on my appointment as Public Relations Director for Talking2Minds.

As a result of all your kind retweets, the blog carrying the charity's mission was deluged with hits.

Currently it is teetering on the verge of 40,000, which I'm reliably informed puts it in the top 1% of most read blogs.

A major TV channel has already expressed a wish to do a feature on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I will update if this comes to fruition.

There are also plans for the Independent on Sunday to run a piece on me this weekend. Although essentially a profile, they have agreed to include the charity's details.

The interview has already taken place. And true to the Indy's 'arty' style, the one hour moody picture session has been done! With a bit of luck, they won't paint on a twirly, villain's moustache.

Plans are also well advanced for me to appear on a televised panel debate in the coming weeks. I am awaiting more details on the composition of the panel to assess their agenda before committing.

The official Talking2Minds announcement of my appointment and role is here:

My grateful thanks to all of you.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

My New PR Role at Talking2Minds

Talking2Minds founder, SAS veteran Rob Paxman
TODAY I’m taking on a new role heading up the PR operation at the forces charity Talking2Minds.
As their new Public Relations Director it is one of the most important and significant challenges in my career.
Talking2Minds helps soldiers, sailors and airmen recover from the cruel effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The silent, corrosive disorder borne from severe psychological trauma, destroys lives as surely as a missing limb.
And as so often with war casualties, it is friends and family who suffer in equal measure.
Marriages and friendships often break down as chronic anxiety attacks and painful flashbacks turn them into angst ridden shadows of their former selves.
Careers are shattered as many turn to alcohol or drugs to escape the painful memories of war.
And with British troops being committed to various theatres of war in recent years, the number of victims is growing.
But it’s not just the veterans of recent conflicts who need our help.
Even veterans of World War II are still suffering silently.
One member of my family who served then suffers still. In 1942, while fighting in North Africa as a ‘Desert Rat’ at the Battle of El Alamein, his convoy was dive bombed by a Stuka.
His truck was hit and he was blown clear but his four comrades perished in a ball of flames.
Seventy years on, aged 92, he still suffers nightmares and survivor guilt as he lay in the sand and watched helplessly as his friends burned to death.
Talking2Minds funds the treatment of men and women from all conflicts who have PTSD.
Members of the civilian emergency services are also coming to Talking2Minds to help deal with PTSD as a result of witnessing appalling human tragedy.
So far, Talking2Minds has successfully treated 380 men and women by funding their treatment with trained psychologists and specially trained therapists.
But they have 1,800 other victims waiting in the wings to be helped.
Many come to Talking2Minds after failing to find a cure through the NHS, which relies on cognitive behavioural therapy and drugs.
Instead, Talking2Minds uses psychiatrists and therapists who tackle the problem without the need to directly confront and relive the traumatic episode which has scarred them.
Their, or I should now start saying, ‘our’ success rate has been astonishing, with most of the victims now on the road to recovery and leading normal lives again.
But to continue with our work, Talking2Minds needs donations.
Over the past few weeks, I have been devising a campaign to bring this charity to greater national attention.
This will be announced in the coming weeks.
But as our plans began to take shape, the charity’s founder Rob Paxman asked me to come on board to oversee this exciting and important venture.
I have known Rob for many, many years. He is an SAS veteran and PTSD survivor himself after seeing active service in Bosnia and Iraq.
Every time Rob comes to my home for lunch, he has left with a £100 cheque for his charity. In the summer, I walked 92 miles along the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path for another forces charity.
I have always put my money where my mouth is with our servicemen and women. Now I can give them my time too and it is an honour and a privilege to do so.
Finally and for the first time in my life some might say, I have found a ‘proper’ job!
We need our heroes and heroines serving on the front-line.
But many of them now need us.
Please help me to help them.
If you are about to do a sponsored event or would like to give a donation, please go to:

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Telegraph on My Urge to Murdoch to Employ Ex NoTW Staff on SoS

The Daily Telegraph follow-up of my article, 'The Sun Rises for a New Dawn at News International' can be read here:

Monday, 20 February 2012

Niall Quinn - Soccer Star, Businessman and Gent. Fare Well.

HATS off to Niall Quinn who leaves Sunderland AFC after guiding it with skill, vision, power and loyalty for six years.
Niall, if anyone needs telling, is the man who took my home town club from the bottom of the Championship to where we are now in just six years
But it is the back story to this man’s career which deserves special mention.
His testimonial match in 2002 raised over £1 million.
Niall gave half to the children’s hospital in Sunderland. And the other half to the children’s hospital in Dublin.
I bumped into him in Portugal in 2007. He was on a brief golfing break. I was on the Madeleine McCann story and we shared a few drinks at the hotel where we were both staying. The passion this Irishman had for this north east club was palpable and complete.
Stokoe, Carter, Porterfield, Montgomery and Shackleton are all hallowed names on Wearside.
But that of Quinn humbles us all and will live forever bright, not only through his supreme skill but also his rare munificence in a sport where greed pervades.

Quinn celebrates one of his 61 goals for Sunderland

Niall Quinn with Sunderland AFC mascot, my nephew and tough tackling midfielder Jack Barker!

The Sun Rises for a New Dawn at News International

Rupert Murdoch - Few saw the Sun on Sunday's imminent launch

THERE IS never an ideal time to either have a baby or launch a newspaper.
If we sat around waiting for the perfect economic conditions, we would have neither.
That is why we have such a thing as, ‘the force of nature’. Rupert Murdoch is part of that force.
Just ten days ago I advocated the launch of the Sun on Sunday immediately.
On February 10th, I said, “And the time for that to happen is now.
“The News of the World readers loved nothing more than its bold and controversial nature.
“And there would be nothing more bold or more controversial than the launch of a fresh Murdoch tabloid right in the eye of the storm.”
And that is exactly what he has done.
By announcing a snap decision to publish this Sunday, he has left the opposition in the starting blocks. So wrong footed are they by this, they haven’t even got their running shoes on.
Trinity Mirror, having failed to invest and capitalise on the closure of the News of the World, are now officially in retreat and slashing costs and cutting staff.
The coast is clear for Murdoch to launch a full-frontal assault on the Sunday market.
By launching a Sunday edition of the Sun, rather than a new title, he is also able to tap into his existing readership base at the daily.
If just 25% of the existing 2,800,000 readers pick up the Sunday edition, that’s still 700,000 readers before he has spent a penny promoting it.
Then there are the 1,300,000 News of the World readers who have given up buying a Sunday red-top.
Many of these are second newspaper buyers. Those who bought the Sunday Times or Sunday Telegraph and picked up the News of the World as well.
When it closed, they tried The Sunday Mirror, People or Star on Sunday but dumped them swiftly as poor imitations.
These readers don’t have to be prised away from a rival paper. They are floating around ready to buy something that looks like the News of the World again.
So again, if just 25% of these people pick up the Sun on Sunday, that’s another 325,000 readers.
Already, the Sun on Sunday has a potential readership of just over 1,000,000 with relatively low start-up costs.
Add to that the novelty factor, growing brand awareness, aggressive marketing and the inevitable price war, and the numbers will inevitably start to head towards the meaningful 2,000,000 figure and beyond.
Launching the newspaper in the middle of a controversy is no bad marketing tactic either. There is popularity in notoriety.
It’s also time for News International to move out of the frozen mode it has reverted to since the hacking and bribery crisis engulfed it.
Businesses that stand paralysed in a crisis invariably collapse. Murdoch may not be able to control the wind but he can certainly alter his sails.
And by launching a Sun on Sunday, he is moving his company, if not into sunlit uplands, then into a new era of self-confidence which has characterised all his News International products over the decades but has been crucially lost.
There are some negative factors of course.
It has been more than seven months since the News of the World closed and the world has kept spinning quite nicely without it. How will that affect readership come-back?
Sunday tabloids live or die by sensational exclusives. And the Sunday newspaper journalist is a different breed entirely to the daily journalist.
I worked for Today from 1990-94 so I’ve seen both sides of the fence and journalists rarely cross over.
Sunday journalism requires a totally different skill set. A daily reporter is a pack animal, hunting with his rivals and moving en masse from story to story.
A Sunday reporter is a loner. Often working in a town or country totally alone, for days or weeks at a time on solitary undercover investigations or big buy-ups.
They are skilled at bringing readers the story behind the story which is what they expect on Sundays.
So by turning the Sun into a seven day operation, Murdoch must avoid doing this on the cheap and thinking he can get away by simply using Sun staff on a seven day rota.
There needs to be a pool of talented Sunday tabloid journalists to man the newspaper engine room.
And he needs to look no further than his reporters on the News of the World.
It takes years to discover and then train up a Sunday reporter and every single one of my former colleagues would be a significant asset to the Sun on Sunday.
I take this opportunity to remind Mr Murdoch that his former CEO Rebekah Brooks promised to find as many News of the World staff as possible new jobs.
He now has the opportunity to carry out that company promise and has a moral duty to do so.
I suspect high on his hit list will be the News of the World’s former investigations editor Mazher Mahmood who would be back on natural territory.
At this point, it must be said that I exclude myself from this process, for dozens of reasons!
Of course the product could be damaged by further allegations of wrongdoing at the Sun. But that potential problem isn’t going to go away for the significant future. So it’s now or never.
And for Rupert, who loves playing a winning hand when the stakes are high, it’s now.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

I'm the New Theatre Critic for the Super Soaraway Comet!

Front of stage at the Rose Theatre
NEXT stop on this helter-skelter ride since the closure of the News of the World is my beloved Surrey Comet where, as you may know by now, I have been appointed theatre critic.
I’m only doing it for the money of course.
Even though my starting salary is £000,000.00pa, I tough-talked my way into getting them to agree to a 100% pay rise after three months. Shrewd eh? (You have to get up early to get one past Thurlbeck.)
The call to serve the readers of this 158-year-old journal of record came out of the blue.
David Lindsell, the chief reporter, had been tasked to find a fellow to write about the plays at the Rose Theatre, Kingston-upon-Thames and had seen my blog.
Stroking his chin, he said, “What about that fool on the hill? You know, the one who lives in the hovel with flashing blue lights outside?”
Ha-ha! He was only joking of course and I did chortle when I heard that!
Then there was the small matter of remuneration.
“But he was on a Fleet Street salary, won’t he expect big bucks?”, enquired assistant editor Julia Kennard
“Nah”, said David. “Have you seen him lately? He can’t afford the price of a haircut since the paper closed!”
Ha-ha! He does like his little joke does our David!
However, I accepted at once without hesitation.

In the impressive Rose Theatre auditorium

For it’s a pleasure and an enormous privilege to be part of this dedicated team which provides a lively and interesting newspaper and one which I have read every week for more than 20 years.
I live in Hinchley Wood, Esher and my nearest theatre is the Rose Theatre in Kingston.
It only opened its doors in January, 2008. But its pedigree is magnificent and I’ve been a regular visitor since day one.
The powerhouse behind it was Sir Peter Hall, the founder of the RSC and former National Theatre director.
Recently, we’ve had Dame Judi Dench as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Jane Asher as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest.
Sir Peter directed Dame Judi in the same role at the 1963 Chichester Festival and acts as a magnet for talent to this wonderfully modern theatre.

Outside the Rose Theatre

No ‘pros arch’ and heavy curtains here. It’s all big, close-up wide open spaces.
Under the expert leadership of artistic director Stephen Unwin, we can look forward to Joely Richardson in Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea and Alison Steadman in Michael Frayn’s Here in the coming weeks.
Who of my generation missed Miss Steadman in ‘Nuts in May’ and ‘Abigail’s Party’ in the BBC’s Play for Today in the 1970s? Few performances sear themselves into the memory as hers.
So from this ‘umble, ‘ovel, on the ‘ill, where this blog is penned, we will be spreading the word far and wide about theatre in SW London and in Surrey, eventually taking in the Wimbledon Theatre and Richmond Theatre.
Then, for this blog only, on to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.
We also have the West End on our radar too, with the Soho Theatre granting me critic status for their shows. More will follow.
Even my old adversary, Mr Tom ‘Moriarty’ Watson MP, tweeted my arrival at the Surrey Comet to his impressive list of 69,000 followers.
My grateful thanks to him for that. I've just sent his email request for a ‘bung’ to Operation Elvedon.
Off to see my barber now to see if he’ll give me a bit of credit on the back of my pending pay-rise.

Me with my new colleagues Bill, left and George, right.

The Lady from the Sea, starring Joely Richardson runs from Feb 23-Mar17.
Here, starring Alison Steadman, runs from Apr 19-May 12.
For information on bookings, go to:
My reviews can be read on this blog or at the Surrey Comet website, where you can also read about how they unveiled their new critic!
The Surrey Comet comes out every Friday, price 55p from all good newsagents from Richmond in the north, as far west as Sunbury, east to Epsom and south to the M25.

Read All About It! In the Surrey Comet

Now for that haircut!

 Pictures by Gareth Harmer at Deadlinepix.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Blog Leader on NUJ's Plan to Oust NISA at News Int

TODAY, exclusively on this blog, the General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists issues a bold challenge to the staff at News International.
The challenge comes in the form of a simple invitation to join the ranks of the NUJ.
But if the snap recruitment drive is successful, the most dramatic print union battle since Wapping 1986 will commence.
Michelle Stanistreet’s bold aim is to depose the well-meaning but ineffective News International Staff Association and replace it with independent NUJ trade union muscle.
The aim is to defend the staff against the onslaught it now faces from the company’s Management and Standards Committee.
To achieve that she needs numbers. News International numbers.
She will undoubtedly get them, if the volume of emails I am receiving from staff indicates.
A quasi-independent body in the shape of the Management and Standards Committee is undermining their fundamental rights as journalists and employees.
It has no care or affection for News International, being drafted from careers spent elsewhere.
It has no loyalty to the company, its products or its staff.
Operating largely in silence, its only public pronouncement has been to defend itself by heaping more damaging slurs on the reputations of those it has turned in to the police.
The shocking accusation that Sun staff had put public officials, “effectively on a retainer”, was a cowardly attempt to save face by stabbing the staff who have served the paper so loyally.
Worse, the comment was given to Reuters anonymously and was therefore the slyest of stabs.
An ‘Et tu, Brute?’ moment even more treacherous than their now infamous, “draining the swamp” (again anonymous) quote of which I was the first to condemn.
It is up to the police and the courts to decide whether there were “effectively” retainers. Not the News International Johnny-come-latelies on the MSC which has now infected any potential future proceedings with prejudicial poison.
The brutal treatment of the Sun staff has also extended to their contacts, who have been turned over to the police without any investigation or discovery of their legitimacy.
Will Lewis, a leading member of the MSC, told the Leveson Inquiry in a moment of blinding hypocrisy: “Core to any journalist – and I’m included – is the protection of journalistic sources, whether they’re my sources or someone else’s sources.”

This “core” principle was so swiftly overturned that it is difficult to believe the MSC have a coherent strategy.

Their erratic logistics have also extended to how they handle ‘evidence’ when they sift through it. Some are fired on allegations of phone hacking (myself and James Weatherup). Others are kept on the staff when accused of far more serious offences.

Staff at the Sun are having their legal bills paid on the Sun, while we at the News of the World are not.

Faced with a committee that seems to make up the rules as it goes along, News International staff can no longer feel secure at their desks.

If it can trash John Kay, the reporter who is perhaps closest to the Murdoch family, no one can feel immune from its arbitrary methods.

When News International was ‘de-unionised’ in 1986, we all held our ‘individual, personal contracts’ and hoped for the best.

That worked well for a time. Maxwell was the villain and Murdoch the hero, offering superb working conditions and salaries.
And his paternal loyalty too. In 2000, he paid £360,000 in legal fees to defend me against the same claims facing the nine arrested Sun journalists he has effectively destroyed.
Murdoch’s plan is to use the MSC as a hired assassin in order to mitigate in any US prosecution brought under the Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act. The more ruthless the MSC, the greater the mitigation.
And that mitigation could save News Corp hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. And his son from jail.
Rupert can no longer be relied on to protect his staff.
For all News International journalists, the time to join the NUJ is fully ripe. They are under attack. And for the first time in a generation, they have the opportunity to put their tanks back on the lawn.
 (Neville Thurlbeck has been a trade union member since 1987 and was an NUJ Father of Chapel 1988-89)

NUJ to Place its Tanks on the Lawns of News Int

NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet (Pic Jess Hurd)
WRITING exclusively for this blog, NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet unveils her union's bold plan to replace the News International Staff Association with NUJ muscle.

By Michelle Stanistreet
NUJ General Secretary

THE CRACKS began to show at News International last year in the wake of the closure of the News of the World. Journalists and staff at the paper lost their livelihoods overnight. Some reporters were plunged into the most Kafkaesque of circumstances – sacked without a penny for alleged “wrongdoing” without even being told what they were supposed to have done wrong, deprived of an internal investigatory or appeal process because it might compromise a potential police investigation. Reputational damage, financial and emotional limbo – these people have been hung out to dry.
And now the bodies are mounting. It is clear in the wake of last week’s arrest of five Sun journalists that, no matter how loyal or committed to the News International cause journalists have been, their careers and livelihoods are now nothing more than collateral damage in a mission with only one purpose - the preservation at all costs of Rupert Murdoch’s empire.
The NUJ has been defending many journalists at News International – reporters, subs, photographers and others – who have given decades of their life to Murdoch’s newspapers yet who have been cynically and brutally dispensed with in a consistent corporate policy of damage limitation and obfuscation.
The corporate strategy has been nothing if not consistent – blame those lower down the rung and ringfence those truly responsible at the top. The actions of the Management and Standards Committee show there is now no way back.

As well intentioned as those individuals may be who are involved in News International Staff Association – set up by Murdoch as a union-busting move to legally block the NUJ from seeking recognition – the organisation is not capable of providing journalists with independent representation and genuine protection. Murdoch gave it life, he sustains it with his own money - the links are seamless.

So NISA needs to go. Journalists need to have real collective protection and representation – for that they need a proper trade union, they need the NUJ.

My message to all journalists at News International is clear – it’s time for action. If you want protection that’s independent, that puts journalists and journalism first – you need to join the NUJ now.
If you want a collective independent voice sticking up for your rights at work, a union that puts journalistic ethics first and doesn’t pay mere lipservice to the fundamental principle of protecting your sources, you need to join the NUJ now.
I’ve taken calls from many whistleblowers and sources in recent days who are frankly terrified that they will be arrested or sacked any day now. They cannot believe that the confidentiality they were promised has been breached.
Change is possible. Just as the establishment of NISA was a loophole in the recognition legislation served up to Murdoch by politicians in his thrall, so there is a loophole that will open up the door to real trade union protection.
If ten per cent of journalists at News International say they want NISA to be derecognised, the case can be made and won. With derecognition comes the opportunity for recognition of the NUJ.
I need journalists on the titles to get in touch, to join the NUJ and to come together to form an organising NUJ chapel.
Two eminent QCs – Geoffrey Robertson and John Hendy – are working with me on a range of legal measures to challenge the actions of the MSC and to provide help and support to members at News International before more members are thrown to the wolves. I will need journalists willing to be part of this legal challenge.
There’s no time to wait. The company has shown where loyalty and committed service leads to. Journalists need an independent voice like never before. It’s time to join the NUJ and work together to stand up for journalists and journalism across News International.
Get in touch today – email . Join the NUJ at  

Join Today – Join the Campaign for NUJ recognition at News International

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Crisis at News Corp - Bloomberg TV Interview the Broadcast

Memo to self - Smile you fool! And keep your chins up!
FOR any who need or wish to see my interview today with Bloomberg TV, here is part of it.

I hope it's dispassionate and balanced.

The message reached 310 million households in 200 countries.

I'll try to get the remainder.

Crisis at News Corp - Bloomberg TV Interview Transcript

Here is the Bloomberg transcript of my TV interview with them broadcast on Tuesday, February 14, 2012.
I aim to be balanced and fair at all times so the criticisms I do have of News Int and News Corp will carry greater resonance. I hope I achieved that.
All comments will be published unless libellous, defamatory or abusive. Career anti-Murdoch ranters will only be published if you argue intelligently!

Clip one:

Andrea Catherwood: “If I can take you back to the day the Guardian newspaper broke the story that the Gordon Taylor privacy action had actually been settled – and at that point it became clear that there was a transcript of the ‘For Neville’ email which has now become quite famous, and which showed, or appeared to show, that you yourself actually knew about phone hacking. What did you do? How did you feel? What happened next?”

Neville Thurlbeck: “I was told that the Editor wanted to see me. Tom Crone, the lawyer, said ‘the Editor wants to see you in about three minutes, and you’re going to be made an offer to go, because of this For Neville email’.
I was stunned. Five minutes later I was before the Editor, explaining to him exactly how this transcript had come about.”

AC: “This was a transcript of a hacked voicemail message?”

NT: “Correct. Voicemail messages. Many. I think 35. And I explained and provided evidence to show that another person, and eventually other people, in the company were to blame.”

AC: “So you knew they were hacking phones at the stage?”

NT: “I found out that there were other people – and the lawyer was aware of this – that there were other people involved in the hacking of Gordon Taylor’s telephone”

AC: “And you name names at that point?”

NT: “ I did. And I supplied further evidence down the line last year as well, in the form of a dossier”

AC: “How was that information treated? Were you believed?”

NT: “That’s a very good question. I was three minutes away from the sack.
Then when I provided the evidence, I wasn’t sacked. I was kept on for another two and a half years, and that was because I’d provided them the evidence that exonerated me.”

AC: “So at that point you’re saying the Execs at News International – certainly your Editor – had the name or names of individuals who had hacked phones?”

NT: “They did”

AC: “And what did they do with that information?”

NT: “They said leave it with us. Nothing happened. I expected them to pass that information up the chain to Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch. What appears to have happened is they’ve given him a certain amount of information, in as much as they’ve given James Murdoch the information about Gordon Taylor’s phone being hacked. But what they failed to give him was my evidence of who hacked the telephone, which was crucial, because if the matter had been dealt with then and the person or people responsible had been routed out, then the rogue reporter defence would have been exploded, but with that explosion there would have been no media campaign to have another police investigation, there would have been no operation Weeting, there would have been no clamour from parliament, no Leveson,  and I think we’d still have the NOTW being published to this day.”

AC: “You said the company were trying to contain the situation – just how far up the company do you believe that this went?”

NT: “I think it was the newspaper, the NOTW, that were trying to contain this. I think James Murdoch was only given a limited view as to what was happening regarding the Gordon Taylor situation. Clearly James Murdoch had sight, or had knowledge, or was given knowledge, that these voicemails had been hacked…”

AC: “Therefore he knew it wasn’t a rogue reporter, because that reporter, Clive Goodman, who was the Royal Editor, was not involved in this…”

NT: “What James Murdoch wasn’t given was my evidence as to who had done

AC: “Do you know he wasn’t given that, or is it just what you suspect?”

NT: “If James Murdoch had known who had done this, he would have taken action, there’s no question he would have to have taken action”

AC: “I have to ask you for the name of that person”

NT: “I can’t give you that. That’s up to Operation Weeting to establish. It would be unfair and wrong of me to start naming any names. In fact, I haven’t named any names to the police”

Clip Two:
Andrea Catherwood: "Talking about James Murdoch's involvement, because there was actually an email that was sent to him, which we now know which said 'it's unfortunately as bad as we feared' there is in fact a mention of a "nightmare scenario" and this is regarding the 'for Neville' email and this is the reason why there was a very generous settlement to Gordon Taylor of 1.4 million dollars. At that point James Murdoch's defence said he didn't read the email. Does that sound plausible to you from what you know of the man?

"Neville Thurlbeck: "We've all done that haven't we? It's just unfortunate he had to do it on such a critical email.  How many times have we received a long sequence of emails on our BlackBerries or our iPhones and scrolled down and thought I'll deal with that later, it's a Saturday and we haven't done it."

AC: "How many times do you settle for 1.4 million dollars claim without reading down the email?"

NT: "It wasn't James Murdoch's finest day, that Saturday. That much is clear."

AC: "He also replied to the email saying give me a call at home that perhaps saying give me a call at home means he was concerned."

NT: "I'm sure he was concerned but whether he got his teeth into the detail of it I don't know. Clearly he didn't. He says he didn't. I mean it was very remiss of him. But do I believe him? We've all been there."

AC: "Do you believe him?"

NT: "I do."

Clip Three:

AC: "I'd like to ask you a little bit about Rupert Murdoch. How well do you know the man and how well did you get a sense of him? He was very proud of the News of the World wasn't he?"

NT: "He was very proud of all his newspapers. Rupert Murdoch was in psychological terms  what you would call a charismatic leader. He didn't have to be there to lead. We all knew what Rupert wanted. In fact, the expression you would hear when important decisions were being made on stories or policy or whatever would be "what would Rupert think or what would Rupert do about this. What would he want us to do?" He was always there even when he was absent. And the very best leaders have this quality and he had it in abundance. I'm talking about late 80s now, early 90s right up until he became involved with Sky. And then there was a tangible sort of distance between Rupert and his newspapers. He wasn't as hands on and I've heard editors say it would go three or four months without hearing from Rupert Murdoch which was highly unusual but his interests lay elsewhere gradually and I think his charismatic leadership qualities as well kind of evaporated with that distance."

Clip Four:

AC: "When we look at the Sun journalists that have recently been arrested, they are being arrested for similar types of allegations and yet the
management is extremely different to the one you've just described. In fact it's the executives themselves the actual company themselves that are giving over the information to the police. It's changed a lot."

NT: "It's changed an awful lot. There's a very good reason for that. Rupert Murdoch's main priority now is to protect his American assets. So all the assets that come under the umbrella of news corporation in New York have to be protected at all costs. They are now facing the serious prospect of a prosecution in the United States under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Now that's a very serious prosecution."

AC: "This is a situation where any company based in American can actually be prosecuted in the United States…"

NT"…for wrongdoing in England. Yes.  So what could happen there is you could have tens of millions of pounds worth of fines but the jailing of very senior members of the company perhaps also, heaven forbid, his family. Now if that happens, that's a tragedy and a catastrophe for the Murdoch family."

Clip Five:

AC asks about payment to police, contacts and prison officers…

NT: "What I am told is the police investigation into the Sun is involving things like £50 lunches with police officers. This is being dragged up during interview. People's expenses sheets. Lunch with officers. You know, if journalists are going to be arrested at dawn and dragged out of their beds and have their houses searched and the floorboards pulled up for having lunches with officers and if they are then going to be suspended or fired or prosecuted because of it, well every newspaper in Fleet Street might as well close up shop now because every newspaper on Fleet Street worth its salt as some point in its career will be taking a police officer, the more senior the better, out for lunch to get information. You know in the course of conversation the symbiotic relationship between press and police has been going on for a century and a half."

Clip 6

AC: "Do you believe that the setting up of the management and standards committee was to try and mitigate any potential prosecutions within the US under this particular act that allows prosecution for bribery elsewhere?"

NT: "It's two fold. It's the American problem but it's also the BSKYB problem. Now that is his holy grail. Understandably so. That is where the massive profits are being made and that's where his business future lies in England. Now that's been denied him. He's got to prove he's a fit and proper person to hold his existing licence let alone increase his shareholding. In order to do that again the management and standards committee is a way of washing his face but the problem is, and this is a big problem. The problem is by doing that, he is likely to cause irreparable damage to the newspapers that he so cherishes and he's also going to cause irreparable damage to the careers of these fantastic journalist."

Clip 7

AC: “Is the feeling at the Sun that there will be more arrests?”

NT:"Yes. There is a fear that this is only the beginning”

AC: “What’s the mood there? There must be a lot of anger?”

NT: “There’s huge anger. Remember, before the arrests, on the Sun newsroom floor, there was huge pride – I can’t tell you how proud those journalists are to be working for the Sun newspaper. I know journalists that left the Sun 15 years ago, and they still say how proud they were to work for that paper. The tragedy is that pride has been converted to anger, literally overnight. That pride has really been converted into fierce fierce anger.
What they’ve said is we’re not going on strike yet, but they haven’t ruled out simply downing tools and walking out. That’s been discussed amongst many members of staff.”
Clip 8:
AC: "Do you think that Rupert Murdoch would sell the Sun?"
NT: "Yes. I think he would if he thought it was infecting his News Corporation over in America. I think he would sell it tomorrow if that was a real danger."
AC: "He would sell it to prevent the contagion spreading to the US?"
NT: "There is no question about it. It's a tiny part of his empire. He has huge sentimental attachment to his newspapers."

Clip 9:
AC: “Do you think that Rupert Murdoch is a fit and proper person to run a British newspaper?
NT: (Long pause). “Yes, I would. The reason for my hesitation is he’s a man who makes few mistakes, but he’s made a big one on the Management and Standards Committee. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an unfit person to run a newspaper – he’s made a big mistake, that’s all I’m saying. Rupert Murdoch has newspapers in his blood. He knows more about newspapers – how they work, how to make them successful, how to make them profitable, how to make them national institutions, than any other news man in the world. He’s fit and proper alright, but he’s made a mistake with this Committee.
AC: “And is James Murdoch a fit and proper person to run a British newspaper and indeed to have interests in BSkyB?”
NT: “He’s as fit as anybody, but again he’s not without making errors.”

Clip 10:
AC: “Mark Lewis, who has become a very well known lawyer for those whose voicemail messages were hacked into, has been over in the US talking to people and I believe he’s going there again soon. One of the areas that he’s looking at is the possibility that some of the victims or some of the families of the victims of 9/11 phones were hacked into. That obviously could have the potential to be extraordinarily damaging, and extremely painful, if it were found to be true2

NT: “The allegation itself is painful, let alone the proof of that allegation. The allegation, if it were allowed to continue for 2 or 3 years, could be catastrophic. It’s a gradual erosion of trust in the product, which is what we experienced at the NOTW. That can be fatal. Eventually, suddenly, you reach that tipping point and you’re over the cliff. That’s what Murdoch will fear about his American assets. That’s his biggest fear at the moment I would have thought. His ultimate goal at the moment is to protect them.”
Clip 11

AC: “Are you surprised at scale of phone hacking? Do you think ‘I was there, I was close to it, I was in the newsroom, and yet an awful lot of that was going on and I didn’t know anything about it’?”
NT: “Yes well you’ve got to distinguish between the scale of the phone hacking and the scale of the people involved in the phone hacking. I think you’ll find, that when the truth comes out, the numbers of victims might be great, but the number of perpetrators very tiny.”

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Committee Pushes Sun Further to the Brink

The Sun's John Kay with Admiral Lord West
 JOHN Kay is one of the finest reporters Fleet Street has ever had.
For 38 years, News International was extremely fortunate to have him on their staff at the Sun and there isn’t enough room on this blog post to list his awards.
He is the sole reason why I never worked at the Sun. He was the only reporter I ever came across who I knew I couldn’t compete with. I would have been overshadowed by his brilliance.
At 68, he was still their chief reporter, so valuable were his contacts and his stories which carried the Sun along on a crest of a circulation wave.
Now he finds himself arrested on suspicion of paying the contacts his company demanded more and more from in return for their money.
Perversely, that very same company, which applauded their chief reporter and signed off the payments to his contacts, is responsible for handing him over to the police.
It is not an overstatement to say that I cannot think of another example of behaviour which rates higher on the scale of sickening hypocrisy.
These acts of treachery by News International and News Corporation are literally destroying the lives of the people who served them loyally and did their bidding.
The anger among Sun staff at the moment is straight from the furnace and springs from the company’s desire to sacrifice anyone in order to protect itself. They have effectively declared war on their own staff, a disastrous corporate strategy.
Many have called me to vent their anger. One told me: “The hatred the Sun is at such a pitch, senior executives ought to seriously consider hiring bodyguards when they go out at night.”
On January 30, on the blog post, ‘News Int Committee will Break up the Firm’, after the arrest of four Sun journalists, I said: “Saturday’s desperate meltdown on the Sun was a crisis waiting to happen.
“And as long as News International’s ill-fated Management and Standards Committee continues to exist, it will happen again and again. Until the balance tips and it is either forced to close or is sold off.”
Today, we have lurched further forward towards that miserable  position.
The formation of the MSC has been a corporate disaster as big as the News International cover-up of the phone hacking crisis.
There should have been a half-way house sought beween ‘Operation Cover-up’ and ‘Operation Trousers Down’.
Any company would collapse under such microscopic scrutiny of its affairs and News International was grossly naïve to miss this and callous to foist it on its staff.
I personally wouldn’t work for them now if they paid me twice my salary. The end result of a News International pay cheque now is industry taint at best, ruination at worst.
The deputy editor, Geoff Webster, I’ve known for more than 20 years, having worked with him on Today and the News of the World. I’ve known John Edwards, the picture editor since we worked for Today 22 years ago. And I’ve enjoyed the company of Nick Parker, the Sun’s chief foreign correspondent on several foreign assignments over the past 20 years.
They are gifted men who gave their lives to News International.
I send my sympathies and warm wishes to them and their families.

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