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Tuesday 20 November 2012

Murdoch Is Served (87)


Reunited today, former Screws editor and one-time chief spinner for Young Dave and his jolly good chaps Andy Coulson faced the charges with the twinkle toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks. Also charged were previously disgraced royal reporter and scapegoat Clive Goodman, Sun chief reporter John Kay, and Ministry of Defence (MoD) employee Bettina Jordan-Barber.

Who she? Well, it is alleged that between 2004 and 2011 Ms Jordan-Barber was in receipt of a cool £100,000, which appears to have come from Rupe and his downmarket troops, and which also appears to fall into the category of corrupt payments. And note that these appear to have been made as recently as last year: one for those who have been following media protestations over hacking.

Moreover, the timescale on the charge sheet for Kay, Ms Brooks and Ms Jordan-Barber goes up to the end of January 2012. Meanwhile, Coulson and Goodman have been charged with offences relating to payments to public officials, including for the Royal Family’s internal “Green Book” phone directory, and that really is in the eyebrow raising category, as a moment’s thought will show.

What use would the Royals’ internal phone book be? Any hack using an otherwise off-limits number would start alarm bells ringing, unless of course the idea was to engage in a little blagging, which would merely compound the impression of illegality. Whoever had that idea should maybe have been told to have another think about it and come back with a marginally less dodgy wheeze.

But what of that not insignificant payment to an MoD official? John Kay has been described as a “totemic” figure at the Sun. He has been their chief reporter since 1990, and has garnered the British Press Awards’ “Reporter of the Year” accolade twice, which is a measure of the respect and regard in which he is held by his fellow journalists. For him it is a real tragedy.

Why would anyone with his track record find himself thus involved? Simples. Combine the pressure of bringing in ever greater scoops, personal drive – Kay would not have been made chief reporter without an abundance of that – and an ambition to leave one’s own mark on a paper’s history, rather than just being an anonymous player, and the temptation to push a little too hard easily emerges.

After all, footballers dive and feign injury, athletes across a startling range of disciplines take a variety of illegal substances, politicians buy services and in turn are bought by others, and business people use the whole range of devices to extract money from others while giving up as little as possible to the authorities. And hacks observe and interact with them all. Just another temptation too far, perhaps.

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