The Greatest Show on Earth (part 3 of 3)

Posted on Jul 26, 2011 by


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Incredibly, talking heads feel sympathy for the old codger falling for his line that the News of the World was so insignificant to his mighty empire he took no interest in what his editors did. Bull. Shit.

In another life, when I was living in Sydney, a woman reporter I knew in London phoned to ask if she could come over for Christmas in the sun. As it turned out our holiday was delayed by her boss, editor of News of the World.

She was asked to book in to the Sebel Town House in Sydney where Elton John, George Michael, Ian Botham and Michael Parkinson were also spending Christmas. She was told to dig the dirt on them all. She was particularly to find out: whether Elton John’s recent hospital stay was Aids related (it wasn’t); she was to blag her way into the hospital where he was treated (run by nuns) and take a photo of his bed.  She was also to ferret out any truth in the rumours he was having a love affair with George Michael and find out if it was true he had given a large donation to the Boy Scouts of Australia.
To see her in action was jaw dropping. She did get into the hospital. She did get the photo of John. She then hired a local paparazzo with a long lens and a boat and rowed out to Elton John’s yacht.

It was she who hastened the death of the broadcaster Russell Harty by setting honey traps to prove he used rent boys. She hounded Koo Stark after it was revealed she was having an affair with Prince Andrew. It was she who ousted Page Three model Sam Fox as a lesbian. Proud of all her scoops she studied the indices of biographies or autobiographies of anyone she had dealings with and was disappointed if her name was not there. She said the mantra at the News of the World was ‘We make ‘em we break ‘em’ and that the dirty digger phoned her editor every Saturday to go through the stories and find out how the reporters got them.

I was with her at the airport when she met a fellow reporter flown out from London. She said: I will always remember when you were sent to interview a one armed Swiss Paralympic who won a Gold at Grand Slalom. He promptly laid on the floor and aped a legless competitor who won the luge.

This was the culture of the News of the World. From the editor down all were in thrall to Rupert Murdoch. All wanted to elevate themselves in his eyes. All were fiercely competitive. To get the story was all. The old adage of stepping on your granny’s neck was true. In her company as she ploughed through her Contatcs Book crossing out names saying ‘dead’, ‘dead’ ‘dead’ she suddenly said ‘Oops! That one was my father. How disgusting!’ And burst out laughing.

These people are hard before newspapers harden them. They are not only immoral (violating moral principles) they are amoral (have no moral code). Unlike Mr Murdoch for whom there is no excuse, many are young, not fully formed, not 100% human. They should be buried and dug up when life has knocked off the sharp edges. For Mr Murdoch there is no excuse. He said his father entered journalism to be a force for good. His father must be groaning in his grave.

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