So, what was it like to work for 'The News of the Screws'?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

"Reporters were treated well for three weeks after getting a splash, but after that they were treated with the same disdain. Not so much by Rebekah, but by the news desk, who had been handed a byline count and were under pressure to bollock any reporter who wasn't deemed to have pulled his or her weight.

The atmosphere was, if you were not liked you were for the chop and you were targeted relentlessly until you resigned or were sacked for refusing to go on a job.

The general impression was pretty hellish for most staff – you were constantly told you were working for the biggest and best paper in the world and that you needed to pull out all the stops.

Some reporters were obviously favourites and Rebekah would massage their egos, whereas the ones who were out of favour were given short shrift and they knew their neck was on the block week in week out. Even when they pulled in good stories from their own contacts the stories were dismissed and spiked. One reporter was booted out of the News of the World for refusing to wear a Harry Potter costume. Another was called at home at 11pm on Saturday night to track down Anna Kournikova in a restaurant. The reporter refused to go as he was babysitting for his wife who had just had a baby and was out of hospital for the first time in months. His refusal to go cost him his job.

Rebekah was often in her glass-fronted office smoking, despite there being a ban on smoking in the office, apart from the smoking room just outside the NOTW office doors, on the sixth floor.

Security guards pleaded endlessly with her to stop smoking in her office, but the ashtrays were always full and Rebekah would wave them away.

She rarely made an appearance on the news desk, only coming out to sit on the back bench and go through the first one to seven or so pages – often with Andy Coulson – on a Saturday night."

Former NOTW journalist who worked under the editorship of both Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson

"It's highly pressurised – a real pressure-cooker environment. But the thing at the News of the World, more than anywhere else, is that you do tend to lose perspective quite quickly. You buy into the fact that it's so successful. You know the cheques you can write to buy people are far in excess of the competition. If they want a story, they throw absolutely everything at it. On a big story, you would have several journalists, private investigators, a whole back office behind it, doing checks and research.

Journalists on the ground would be busy dealing with people and trying to buy people off or piece things together. Whereas the back office, where records were pulled or things were hacked, was done primarily through HQ. Journalists wouldn't really get involved. There were times I would be passed a printout of someone's phone bill and told to check the numbers. You didn't ask where it came from."

A news reporter who spent more than a year working under Brooks during her editorship of the NOTW

"You would work whatever hours were required to complete your tasks and that was in your contract. It was really why, over the years, they had to pay out so much in damages and compensation to disgruntled employees who had left.

There's this pressure because you work on the News of the World. You don't want to lose your job with them because it would be very hard to get a job with anyone else – most people would think you would be unemployable because of the salary that you might earn.

Rebekah Brooks probably won't go voluntarily, and if she goes "voluntarily" publicly, it will be as a result of a push from the Murdochs. They will say to her: "Fall on your sword, darling, and here's a couple of million quid into your bank account to encourage you to keep your trap shut."

I think she would go quietly because once she leaves she's got her own professional reputation to consider and she's going to want to work for other people.

She came into journalism when she was quite young. My understanding is that her father and mother split up and – whatever it was her father did – it was viewed by her mother, Deborah, and I think Rebekah, as a terrible betrayal.

She was very, very close to her mum. Her mum used to spend a lot of time in London when Rebekah was on the News of the World and she was in daily contact by phone.

She's known as a consummate networker, but she obviously only networks with people who can get her somewhere. You don't have to network with your subordinates – they do their job; otherwise you sack them."

Senior journalist who worked alongside Rebekah Brooks at the NOTW

"My own experiences of Rebekah Wade have been perfectly good. When she became editor of the News of the World she didn't want to do a theatre column and got rid of me, which she was perfectly entitled to do.

Then she became editor of The Sun and decided that she did want to do a theatre column and made me theatre critic of The Sun.

In all, I had no complaints. They treated my copy properly and then she called me in a couple of times and asked me to do a couple of things for her that I had a particular skill for, or she thought I did.

So I had a perfectly good relationship with her and she was, I found, very easy to deal with. But of course that's quite often the case when you're a freelancer and you're not in the office every day."

Bill Hagerty, former theatre critic at the NOTW

The supporting players who have moved centre stage

Hugh Grant

The romcom star turned figurehead for hacking victims has been especially vocal in his criticism of politicians and their inability to stand up to Rupert Murdoch. Grant took the fight to the tabloids when he visited ex-News of the World staffer Paul McMullan at his Dover pub and recorded the former reporter alleging that Brooks "absolutely" knew hacking was going on.

Tom Watson

The Labour MP for Bromwich East has been fighting to publicise phone-hacking for years. As part of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, he interviewed News International executives and Andy Coulson. On Wednesday he used parliamentary privilege to accuse News International of entering the criminal underworld.

Lady Buscombe

The Tory chair of the Press Complaints Commission has had to announce that a 2009 investigation the PCC carried out into phone-hacking was compromised by the fact the NOTW did not tell the truth. David Cameron has called for the PCC to be scrapped and replaced with a new independent body, separate from the industry and government.

Simon Greenberg

As director of corporate affairs for News International, Greenberg represents the company's interests in public. Formerly communications director at Chelsea FC, and briefly a sports editor at the NOTW, he was brought on board by Brooks earlier this year. He was responsible for setting up a compensation fund for victims of phone-hacking.

David Wooding

The News of the World's chief political editor, who is well-liked by both News International executives and reporters. He became a shop steward for staff, appearing on television and radio stating that the majority of those at risk of job losses were not involved in phone-hacking. The Liverpudlian said staff were "devastated" following Rebekah Brooks's announcement.

Paul McMullan

The former NOTW reporter has been one of few to own up to hacking phones and claimed that it was widespread at the paper. A Newsnight appearance on Friday, with Steve Coogan and Will Self, went against him, with Coogan calling him "a risible individual" and Self describing him as "marvellously rat-like".

Comments