Not sure if we’ll ever get the full details of phone tapping at the News of the World; how widespread it was, and whether management gave it the nod. It would have to be one stupid manager to leave evidence instructing the practise.
What I do know from being a journalist, knowing journalists, and having managed news journalists, is that journalists want as much information as possible. It is their currency, whether it’s published or not. They compete with one another (not just rival titles) and will be as sneaky as possible in gathering information if it means winning an edge. Impersonating dumb customers, copying notes, badgering junior staff, peddling false stories to illicit a genuine response – these are the stock in trade. It is understood that good stories don’t just come in through the window, you have to use a degree of cunning. Things have only got faster and riskier with online news, rolling deadlines and more competition.
Management encourages this – how could it not, editors come from the same background. They set the tone for the news desk, even if they make clear that no laws are to be broken. Trouble is, there is often a lax attitude towards man-management: bad behaviour is tolerated; you can be late, drunk and foul-mouthed as long as you hit deadline and the story stacks up. The upside is that this slack atmosphere can provide the right work environment for dynamic individuals; the down, is that some run out of control.
What makes me suspect the NotW management knew something of the phone tapping, even if they didn’t authorise or condone it, is that journalists are gobby. They like to brag about how smart they are. They might just about accept not going to press with a story, but would find it very hard not to gossip. They may protect their sources, but would readily boast of how smart their investigations were.
You can bet some are prepping the inside scoop on phone tapping and tabloid journalists gone mad.