I’m shocked, shocked to learn from yesterday's New York Times Sunday magazine that the voice mail messages of celebrities have been bugged for tidbits of gossip—can you believe it?—by the Murdoch press in London. And that the bugging wasn’t, as previously thought, the activity of one lone hack, Clive Goodman, the royal snoop for Murdoch’s scandal sheet, the News of the World. Goodman, known by his colleagues as The Eternal Flame because he never left the office, went to jail in January 2007 for hacking into Prince Harry’s voice mail. The NOW’s congenial editor at the time, Andy Coulson, who insisted he knew nothing of his reporter’s disgraceful tactics, resigned in January 2007 but is currently riding high as PM David Cameron’s communications director. For how long?
Thanks to The New York Times sending in a heavy mob of Pulitzer Prize-winners for their story, a stone has been lifted on a whole squirming zoo of low life in the News of the Screws (as it is known in the U.K.). The Times story tallies with the outrageous antics chronicled in one of my favorite memoirs of Fleet Street, the 2005 Piers Morgan diaries covering his era as editor of the News of the World from 1994 to 1995. Piers, soon to take Larry King’s seat as CNN’s prime-time celebrity interviewer, recalls dispatching a reporter, Rebekah Wade, disguised as a cleaning lady in a uniform white hat, to steal for the News of the World all of the scoops in the serial extract of Jonathan Dimbleby’s 1994 biography of Prince Charles appearing in that Sunday's more respectable sister paper, The Sunday Times. “She headed down to the room where the Sunday Times inserts their sections into the main paper," Morgan wrote, "and hid in the loo for two hours waiting for the presses to start.
that is only the start of it
It is a very fair statement that the New York Times has had a lot to do with this story. The UK press are sometimes reluctant to comment on each other. I think the daily beast blog is well worth following.