Audit Notes: News Corporation Hacking Scandal Edition

The Guardian’s Nick Davies, the person most responsible for unearthing Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World scandal, has another must-read today, reporting on what Rebekah Brooks knew and when she knew it.

He reports Scotland Yard met with Brooks back in 2002 to complain that her journalists had tailed detective David Cook, who was investigating a 1987 murder whose top suspect, Jonathan Rees was one of the News of the World’s phone hackers.

A Guardian investigation suggests that surveillance of Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook involved the News of the World physically following him and his young children, “blagging” his personal details from police databases, attempting to access his voicemail and that of his wife, and possibly sending a “Trojan horse” email in an attempt to steal information from his computer.

An NotW reporter was allegedly on the take, funneling money back from Rees. Police found out that the paper had been following Detective Cook, but:

Scotland Yard chose not to mount a formal inquiry. Instead a senior press officer contacted Brooks to ask for an explanation. She is understood to have told them they were investigating a report that Cook was having an affair with another officer, Jacqui Hames, the presenter of BBC Crimewatch. Yard sources say they rejected this explanation, because Cook had been married to Hames for some years; the couple had two children, then aged two and five; and they had previously appeared together as a married couple in published stories.”The story was complete rubbish,” according to one source.

For four months, the Yard took no action, raising questions about whether they were willing to pursue what appeared to be an attempt to interfere with a murder inquiry. However, in November 2002, at a press social event at Scotland Yard, Brooks was asked to come into a side room for a meeting. She was confronted by Cook, his boss, Commander Andre Baker, and Dick Fedorcio, the head of media relations. According to a Yard source, Cook described the surveillance on his home and the apparent involvement of Marunchak, and evidence of Marunchak’s suspect financial relationship with Rees. Brooks is said to have defended Marunchak on the grounds that he did his job well.

This is a guy whom Brooks and NotW thought it was good to employ.

The Guardian has a fun and useful list of denials, many of them would have to be called lies now, issued by News Corporation, the police, and press officials about the hacking scandal:

July 2009 News International statement following publication of first Guardian hacking story by Nick Davies

“All of these irresponsible and unsubstantiated allegations against News of the World and other News International titles and its journalists are false.”

And this one’s nice:

November 2009 PCC report on the Guardian’s hacking allegations

“The PCC has seen no new evidence to suggest that the practice of phone message tapping was undertaken by others beyond Goodman and Mulcaire, or evidence that News of the World executives knew about Goodman and Mulcaire’s activities. It follows that there is nothing to suggest that the PCC was materially misled during its 2007 inquiry….

Indeed, having reviewed the matter, the Commission could not help but conclude that the Guardian’s stories did not quite live up to the dramatic billing.”

PCC would be the Press Complaints Commission.

Meantime, the paper’s Roy Greenslade eviscerates yet another misleading statement, this time from Rupert Murdoch himself today. Murdoch:

“I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively cooperate with the police in all investigations…”


Proactive? News Int has made the public promise of pro-activity to get to the bottom of its own staff’s activities at least three times in the past.

On the other hand it is well known that it has cooperated rather too closely with the police in the past, so that bit is probably true enough.

Read the whole thing.

— Who exactly got hacked? The Guardian (of course) has a list of all the names known thus far.

It seems long, but it’s actually very short:

Although the total number of names runs into the thousands, few so far have been identified.

— I criticized News of the World sister paper The Wall Street Journal yesterday for stuffing the big news on the Milly Dowler hacking.

Today it does quite a bit better, giving it more than 1,100 words and fronting it on B1, even if it couldn’t quite get the piece above the fold (much less page one, like The New York Times did).

It starts off well, identifying News Corporation as the owner in the lede and calling it a “tabloid reporting scandal.” And it’s a solid news story with good context on what’s happened. You’re not going to find new stuff here, but at least the news that’s already uncovered elsewhere isn’t stuffed inside in a brief or ignored altogether. This, for instance, shows how close the scandal has gotten to the boss man himself:

Ms. Brooks on Tuesday faced a torrent of criticism and calls for her to step down, from politicians and the public. She was News of the World’s editor until 2003, putting her at the helm during the time of the alleged Dowler hacking.

Since then, she has become one of the U.K’s most powerful journalists, first serving as editor of The Sun and later as chief executive of News International, making her a top lieutenant to News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch.

This is a fair story, fairly reported and fairly played, and that’s what we expect when an institution is covering its parent company.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,