Insider reveals: "PR men would think up a story and Rebekah's Sun and News of the World would run it, word for word. Some were complete fiction"
2011 07 10
There was fury at News International when journalists discovered that the 200 staff of the News of the World were to be sacrificed to save the career of Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks.
Here one Murdoch insider, whose identity is known by The Mail on Sunday but who has been guaranteed anonymity, describes what it is like working for Mrs Brooks...
The integrity of The Sun and the News of the World started crumbling the moment Rebekah Brooks got her hands on them.
'Love-bombed': Brooks, the Sun editor, chats with PM Tony Blair in 2004 at a party
Throughout her career, she has had one aim only: self-glorification. She used the papers to promote her own interests, not to break stories or to entertain.
Whether it was securing seat A1 on her favourite airline, claiming the best view at a West End show or winning access to the Prime Minister’s inner sanctum, Rebekah would do whatever it took.
Good journalism was secondary. When she took charge of The Sun, it was an abrasive, aggressive paper known for breaking big stories. Really big stories. It was feared by the powerful because they knew they would be pursued with bulldog determination by a crack, well-led team.
In those days, The Sun was the embodiment of the old adage ‘publish and be damned’. It frequently was damned by the rich and powerful. It upset people. It trod on people’s toes. When it got things wrong, it apologised.
Naturally, it devoted plenty of space to the frivolity of celebrities and gossip. But it was fundamentally a serious paper, which was taken seriously by serious people. It showed that a tabloid newspaper could be produced with the highest degree of professionalism.
Like a daughter to him: As Rupert Murdoch has grown older and more frail, he has become closer and more dependent on Brooks
That was a truly remarkable achievement. From the day Rebekah rose to the top, that reputation was surrendered to her desire to mingle with the rich and powerful. Under her leadership, the News of the World and The Sun became crammed with trivia.
No editor behaved like she did. When Prime Ministers spoke to Kelvin MacKenzie, one of Rebekah’s predecessors as editor of The Sun, they were scared stiff of him.
When Prime Ministers spoke to Rebekah, they were love-bombed. That was a betrayal of the papers and a betrayal of their readers.
She had the same, craven relationship with public relations practitioners. Scores, if not hundreds, of front-page stories were written by the PR men. They would think up a headline and story and The Sun and News of the World would run it, word for word. Some of them were complete fiction.
Meanwhile, proper stories by proper journalists were buried deep inside the paper. Stories that upset one of Rebekah’s VIP cronies didn’t appear at all. It broke the reporters’ hearts.
Relationships with PR firms such as Matthew Freud’s Freud Communications were so close that if they called the newsdesk with a story, you had to run it. If you told them it wasn’t a story but just a piece of PR fluff, they would phone Rebekah’s office, the reporter would be told off and the story would go in as Freud wanted it.
She sold the soul of The Sun and the News of the World to PR snake-oil merchants. It was not real journalism, but client journalism. Rebekah’s real skill is a manipulator of people. She is very skilful at persuading people to dance at the click of a finger.
She is feminine and feline, and uses it to the full. One theatrical swish of her Pre-Raphaelite hair and hardened Cabinet Ministers would swoon.
Her main aim was to show that she could beat men at their own game in Fleet Street. In a way, she did. The moment she was editor, she wanted to go higher and run News International itself.
I have never seen a woman so driven by ambition and yet so lacking talent. What she does have – in abundance – is an ability to get what she wants. Mainly from men. And they would do whatever it took to please her – including phone hacking.
Tony Blair and David Cameron were both charmed. True, they got what they wanted in the main: supportive coverage. But Rebekah also got what she wanted: regular invitations to No 10, parties with Blair and riding with Cameron. Blair is gone and need not worry; Cameron may pay a heavy price.
Occasionally she would come back from No 10 with an ‘exclusive’ story. But usually, they weren’t real exclusives: the story had been agreed in advance and generally showed the PM or the governing party in a favourable light. A Sun or News of the World exclusive in the old days would have terrified No 10.
And no one was better at handling Rupert Murdoch than Rebekah. When she was with him, she would do everything for him. She would make sure his glass was topped up, grab the right people at receptions for him, keep those who he didn’t want to see out of reach, open doors for him. Everything.
That is why he has gone to such inordinate lengths to protect her. Some would say him prioritising saving her as opposed to the News of the World is insanity.
She is like a daughter to him. And as he has grown older and more frail, he has become closer to and more dependent on her.
People constantly ask: ‘Why hasn’t Murdoch been tougher on Rebekah?’ The answer is not as complex as it may appear. As the saying goes, there’s no fool like an old fool.
Blair tried to hush up hacking scandal as whistleblower MP told: "Rebekah Brooks will pursue you for the rest of your life"
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