Lessons from Hackgate: 3) Listen to your Mother

The Detective department of the Metropolitan Police was founded in 1842. The News of the World was launched in 1843. In 1847 the Metropolitan Police dismissed 238 officers for disciplinary offences, including selling stories to Grub Street. Fast forward to Jack the Ripper and see the feeding frenzy of the press. Fast forward to the Profumo Affair, the murder of Muriel McKay or the disappearance of Madeleine McCann

The views of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch on her son’s purchase of the News of World are a matter of record . It is said that he reigned in some of its worst excesses as a result and that what happened subsequently was behind his back. The NoW accounted for less than 10% of the cases uncovered by Operation Motorman so it was indeed doing less than its rivals – as is now beginning to come out in mainstream press cover – albeit not that of its main enemies.

In my teens we lived next door to a senior pre-Murdoch News of the World executive. We had another senior newspaperman with a rival tabloid on the other side. My mother was appalled when I had my first “story” in a national newspaper and a journalist rang, having tracked me down in under 24 hours – despite the promise of anonymity as a whistle blower given to me by the editor of the Parish Magazine, a former journalist with yet another tabloid, who had suggested that the Vicar would not like it but that Fleet Street would.

I have never since believed any claims of security or anonymity, least of all over the Internet.