UK Phone Hacking Scandal
Brooks Keeps Her Job...But for How Long?
by Dan Ehrlich

The Ravishing Redhead Claims: I Knew Nothing, I Saw Nothing
News International Supremo Rebekha Brooks told her colleagues she didn’t resign because she knew nothing about the alleged crimes being committed by News of the World editors and staff. And, she might be telling the truth.

Since moving upstairs from being a hands-on-editor, in long-standing British fashion her job would largely be concerned with schmoozing high-level figures, something that apparently was her forte. But, this scandal had it roots years-ago while she was editor of the paper. She would have had to been in on the ground floor of this alleged illegal activity.

Practices and methods emanate from the top and filter down to the shop floor. Brooks’ history of tenacious to desperate sensational journalism set a tone at the News of the World that became the benchmark and seal of approval for outrageous antics which culminated in massive illegal acts.

My first regular job in London back in 1974 was working as features editor of Fleet Street News Agency. And one of the most impressive aspects of my time there was seeing young reporters working apprenticeships as part of National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) training schemes.

Today, while those schemes still exist, they have been eclipsed by American style university journalism courses, which have become one of the most popular disciplines on offer. Of the subjects being taught are journalistic ethics, libel and the responsibility of being a reporter.

Had Ms. Brooks undergone an NCTJ indentureship or attended a journalism school she may have learned what was and wasn’t proper and her duty, not as an egotist, but as a responsible journalist.

But, she came to prominence through the school of hard knocks… which may be an appropriate way of describing the meteoric rise of sizzling hot babe, who went from secretary to editor of the biggest national Sunday paper in only 11 years.

Yet, from time to time there have been others who have enjoyed similar express success on UK national papers. Oddly, they all have seemed to be somewhat attractive young women. And while these stories may make amusing movies, they can play quite differently in real life.

Again, I have to think back at those kids working their asses off at Fleet Street News Agency for next to nothing, many hoping to someday work at a national paper. Only a few made it and fewer still will rose to editor status.

So, even though this doesn’t affect an ancient mariner such as me, I can’t help thinking what bad example to set for youth, the reality of a Nicole Kidman look-alike, without any real news experience or training, waltzing in from a secretary job to head of the entire news group. Is she really that talented and in what ways?

Yet, now those chickens have come home to roost…it's a time of reckoning. Ms. Brooks never expected the seeds of her fanatical brand of journalism would breed several out of control Jeff Decades, willing to do anything for anything…after-all, most of the tasteless and unseemly phone hacking haul weren’t the super scoops the super redhead expected of her troops.

It's one thing uncovering corruption in government or world beating scandals and another breaking the law for childish gossip stories the tabs and their readers love. In the first scenario the press is heroic, and must be applauded by the establishment, in the second it outrages the public and the establishment could demand press restrictions...which is now happening.

Yet, it's what was done  to get these stories that has created a crisis in the UK Government, one that has forced Rupert Murdoch to fly to London for some serious words with Brooks, his unofficial “daughter,” while reassuring the Prime Minister that everything will be okay once he gets all of BSkyB.

The journalistic world is in a free for all, with competition for readers and advertisers more aggressive than ever. And yet its a quiet war being largely fought on the Internet with publications becoming international. Aside from the pressure cooker workplaces the UK's competitive press system creates, the Internet-mobile phone age has made hacking into private calls possible without adequate safeguards to protect people from hackers.

A scandal such as this was a long-time in coming. The down-market tabs have been pushing the envelope for years. One might compare the present crisis to a child who plays his parents against each other (the political right and left) to get what he wants, only to go a bit too far and get slapped down for it.

In the end, Murdoch will keep it in the family and offer his unofficial “daughter” a different position…possibly at 20th Century Fox…Hollywood seems like a natural choice for the fiery redhead. They love bullshit out there. She would be right at home.

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