As the New of the World phone-hacking scandal threatens to bring down the entirety of News Corporation, people are desperate to know exactly what happened in the tabloid of ill-repute.
Enter The Hollywood Reporter, which scores a first-person essay from an anonymous U.S.-based source who worked at the paper in 2006. She offers some fascinating revelations, although nothing that is too surprising if you have been following the story.
The writer started her four-month stint at the paper with a few mundane assignments before being dispatched to “to catch Mike Tyson in a cocaine orgy.” She scored a “pen cam” at a local video store – using the NotW account to pay – before setting off to catch the former heavyweight champ.
Sick over the task but afraid I’d be shipped home if I didn’t come through, I managed to locate Tyson at a hotel, befriend him and his posse and take some photos of him with strippers with the pen cam. I passed the info on to a fellow reporter and cried when it hit the paper the next day. The editors’ embellishments detailed three-way sex and other activities I had not witnessed. They made it look as if Tyson was in the midst of an orgy in the lobby.
The most interesting part of the story is the culture of quiet that existed in the newsroom. The writer talks about being congratulated for her Tyson scoop but normally being ignored by other reporters and editors. It gets even better:
The place was always shrouded in secrecy. Reporters never talked to one another, much less discussed where they were getting stories. Most front-page bombshells came via the “fake sheik,” a reporter so skilled at blending in that I never knew when he visited the newsroom. He once busted Sarah Ferguson taking a bribe for access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew.
The writer does say that many of the reporters kept their ethics in check, but it’s easy to understand how the culture of “do anything to get the story” led to breaches of traditional protocol. Once you get on to that slippery slope, phone hacking is not far away.
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