Nick Davies' Hack Attack looks to be as essential reading as Flat Earth News was:
Hoare was furious with him one time when Hoare brought in a story about a famous actress only to find that Coulson, first, refused to publish it; second, took the famous actress on holiday; third, was clearly being rewarded in her bed; fourth, and worst of all, told the famous actress how Hoare had managed to get the story in the first place, with the result that the source was exposed and lost forever.
When Hoare discovered all this, he told Coulson direct and to his face that he was a “complete cunt”. Coulson replied with a line which became a regular catchphrase as he worked his way upwards: “I’ll make itup to you, mate.” As though it didn’t matter what you did, because you could always throw a favour in somebody’s direction and just move on.
There is a story that Coulson’s assistant editor Ian Edmondson often liked to tell, about the time when he was still only a junior reporter on the News of the World and he had a girlfriend who was a reporter on
another newspaper. He liked to call her “Boobs”. It so happened, he would explain, that Boobs made friends with Tracy Shaw, a particularly eye-catching young actor from Coronation Street who was of great interest to the tabloids. As Edmondson told it, there was one night when the two women had gone out on the town together and afterwards, Boobs
had confided in him that Shaw had done some coke. This was obviously a secret, he would say, and one which could cause trouble for Shaw and potentially for his girlfriend – but also it was obviously a good story for the News of the World. So, he recalled with some relish, he had persuaded the trusting Boobs to tell him the whole tale again, secretly recorded her every word and gave it to the paper.
But Weatherup was no kind of street fighter. He appeared to be stuck in a 1970s time warp, playing the John Travolta part in Saturday Night Fever. He wore expensive suits and special gloves for driving and he had a well-known tendency, at the first sight of a sunny day, to turn up in the office in tight-fitting white tennis shorts; and an equally well-known tendency to slide up behind the young female reporters and massage their shoulders or even kiss their necks.
During the spring of 2005, for example, he (Coulson) personally oversaw a project to snatch an interview with the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, in Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, where he was serving his time for the murder of 13 women. This was kept very secret.
The reporter on the job was instructed not to tell colleagues. For maximum discretion, any senior editor could have managed the job, but Coulson liked to think he knew how to run an investigation and he duly authorised the payment of a hefty fee to Sutcliffe’s brother, Carl, and also the purchase of a camera and recorder that were specially designed
to trick the metal detectors at Broadmoor. Carl Sutcliffe concealed them inside a plaster cast and visited his unsuspecting brother who then found himself splashed across the News of the World, primarily on the grounds that he had become fat – “a balding 17-stone slob”, as the paper put it.
Some sources were naive. They would tell their story before getting a signed contract and would simply never be paid. One woman agreed to talk on the promise that the News of the World would pay for her to have a good holiday. When she tried to claim her reward, an editor declared that she was from up north, so she could stay in a caravan, for £150.
Some got contracts and fell for an easy trick. The contract promised them big money if the story went on the front page. The reporter knew very well it would go inside the paper but kept that quiet. When the story came out and the source begged for something, anything, the reporter would offer them a tiny fee and, as one put it: “You wear them
down and, in the end, they’ll take buttons.” A few – including a woman who had been raped by a footballer – fell foul of a clause which said that to the best of the source’s knowledge, the story must be true: the News of the World printed the story, claimed the source had been knowingly wrong about some part of it and refused to pay up.
The paper ruined a long list of more or less famous men by exposing the fact that they had visited prostitutes. And yet, in search of more of these stories, one News of the World reporter was told to make contacts among high-class sex workers with the specific instruction that he should have sex with them, do cocaine with them and claim it all on
expenses. So he did.
Labels: abuses by tabloids, Andy Coulson, Hack Attack, News of the Screws, News of the World, Nick Davies