The 'culture of fear' inside News of the World HQ

When the News of the World hit its sales zenith of more than 8 million copies a week in the 1950s, it did so under the advertising slogan "All human life is there." Some 60 years later, its former punchline might be applied not so much to the contents of the paper as to the type of people it employs to hunt relentlessly for a scoop.

The most successful and fearsome red-top of them all started life in 1843 as a scandal sheet dedicated to revealing the seamy goings-on in Britain's brothels and gin palaces. While some of the subject matter may be little changed, the competitive nature of the newspaper industry and a "culture of fear" inside the NOTW means that pressure is more intense than ever on its journalists to produce results.

Four reporters and one private investigator employed by the "Screws" have now either been jailed for hacking into the mobile phones of celebrities, have alleged that the practice was widespread within all tabloids, or have been suspended while claims that eavesdropping on voicemails is still going on are investigated.

Inside the fortress-like surroundings of News International's Wapping headquarters, the nation's top-selling newspaper is produced by driven and accomplished professionals who can legitimately point to stories such as this month's gambling sting operation against Pakistani cricketers as evidence that they produce news which other media are only too happy to follow.

But former staffers have told The Independent that throughout the editorship of Downing Street press chief Andy Coulson, there was a tacit understanding between journalists and senior editors that "all means fair or foul" were to be employed in the pursuit of a story.

One former journalist said: "There was what could only be described as a culture of fear inside the paper. Andy [Coulson] was a very focused editor and it was very clear that there was no such thing as failure – 'no' was not taken as an answer. The result was a mental sweatshop and it got results.

"You never heard it expressed explicitly but clearly senior staff had access to specific information about individuals which was then passed on to individual reporters to stand up. It would seem unlikely that if someone like Clive Goodman was filing expenses for a substantial sum to be paid to Mr Mulcaire that questions weren't asked about just what it was for."

Sean Hoare, another former NOTW journalist, who told The New York Times he had been "actively encouraged" by Mr Coulson to hack into phones – something Mr Coulson denies – described these methods as "the dark arts".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Advisor

£13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A chance to work for an extreme...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Media Sales - £36,000 OTE

£28000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes