Since Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the News of the World on Friday, I've had a number of calls. "You must be delighted," has been the tone, as if I might be celebrating the fact that Andy has resigned and his royal reporter Clive Goodman has been sent to prison for bugging private phones, including mine. It is true that I fell out with Andy over the way he treated a delicate and vulnerable client of mine, Kerry Katona, about 18 months ago, and I've had nothing to do with the NoW since. But certainly in no way am I delighted by what has happened to Andy, who is someone I have known for many years and got on with extremely well, up until our disagreement.
Yes, we fell out, but I wouldn't have wished this on him. It has also done great harm to the credibility of journalists, who are respected little enough as it is.
Big exclusives are the lifeblood of newspapers, and if reporters don't get stories, or are beaten to an exclusive by a rival, they get moved aside or sacked. Fleet Street is more competitive than ever, with a declining market, challenged by the internet, the free papers, and more and more news-based magazines.
After my links with the NoW were severed, the relationship I have with all the other papers continued. And as major exclusives from me appeared in other papers, such as John Prescott's affair with Tracey Temple, for example, the NoW got increasingly anxious at what they were missing (I know this from talking to various NoW journalists). Apart from the stories, the biggest part of my organisation is doing various stars' PR, much of which is about keeping damaging stories out of the media.
I have been responsible for many of the NoW's biggest exclusives over the past 20 years, all achieved without the bugging of phones. In only the most exceptional of circumstances (national security or matters of undisputed public interest, such as spreading racial hatred or exposing paedophile rings) is telephone eavesdropping acceptable. Perhaps the answer would be to set up a committee of three or four publicly respected figures who could discuss in confidence a request from an individual journalist wanting to bug a private phone. In this way, the press would be complementing the work of the police, rather than doing their work for them.
A private investigator has said he has done work for more than 300 journalists, providing numbers illegally and so on. I don't know what the truth is, but I believe it is pretty widespread and needs sorting.
Some claim Andy Coulson has done the honourable thing by resigning. He said he took responsibility for what happened, and of course he should. He apologised to the Royal Family and offered to donate a substantial sum to a charity of their choice. (I am still waiting to receive an apology, let alone an offer of a donation to charity.) Everyone in the media knows it is the editor who is ultimately in control. There is no way that Clive Goodman could have authorised paying more than £100,000 for Glenn Mulcaire's activities without approval from the highest level.
What I don't quite see is why Andy Coulson didn't resign when Goodman was convicted. We are told they decided a fortnight ago, but my suspicion is that the decision was dependent on what punishment Goodman received. If he had been ordered to do community service, I believe Andy Coulson would still be the NoW's editor.
Rupert Murdoch tends to look after his senior journalists and has always enjoyed a close relationship with his editors. Andy Coulson has had a very successful career and undoubtedly has a lot of talent. I would be surprised if Rupert Murdoch doesn't sooner or later find a senior position for him somewhere in his empire. Years ago this might have finished Andy's career, but, with today's standards, this is by no means terminal.Reuse content