News of the World

Ex-News of the World reporter’s conviction overturned

The Guardian | BBC News

Yesterday, the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal threw out the conviction of a former News of the World reporter accused of paying a public official for information, BBC News reports. The decision is a setback for Operation Elveden, the controversial police investigation into the practice of journalists paying officials for leaks and confidential details about public figures.

According to BBC News, the journalist, whose name cannot be disclosed for legal reasons, was convicted in November 2014 of supplying money to an unnamed prison official in return for information. The journalist was given a six-month suspended sentence. The prison official who allegedly accepted the money has also had his conviction and 42-month sentence overturned.

The Guardian reports that the Court of Appeal ruled that Justice William Davis did not give sufficiently clear instructions to the jury. In order to convict the defendants, the jury must find that the misconduct must be so serious “as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust.” But according to the Court of Appeal, Davis did not sufficiently stress how serious this misconduct must be in order to justify a conviction.

Operation Elveden is an investigation into allegations that tabloid journalists have systematically paid public officials for private information about public figures or victims of sensational crimes. According to The Guardian, the Crown Prosecution Service has brought 24 reporters to trial as part of the investigation. Of the 24 reporters, one has been convicted, while a second reporter has pled guilty. The remaining 22 have either been acquitted or are awaiting retrials after juries could not reach a decision. Read more

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News Corp’s revenue falls

News Corp

Revenue at News Corp’s news and information division fell 6 percent in the last quarter of the corporation’s fiscal year, and 9 percent in the full year, when compared with the respective same periods the year before.

“The majority of the revenue decline reflects lower advertising revenues at the News and Information Services segment, the sale of LMG and foreign currency fluctuations, partially offset by strong performance in the Book Publishing and Digital Real Estate Services segments,” the company says in an earnings release. “LMG” refers to Dow Jones’ Local Media Group, which the company sold last September.

Overall revenue was down 3 percent in the fourth quarter and 4 percent for the year. Circulation and subscription revenues were down 5 percent in the year, the report says. Advertising revenue in the news division, which includes Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, was down 10 percent in the year.

News Corp paid $169 million, with $72 million “net of indemnification” from former corporate sibling 21st Century Fox, in matters related to the U.K. phone hacking investigations, or as News Corp puts it, “related to the claims and investigations arising from certain conduct at The News of the World.” Those matters cost the company $183 million the previous year. Read more

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Diana leaked royal phone directory, journalist testifies in phone hacking trial

Agence France-PresseAssociated Press

A British journalist on trial in connection with the long-running phone hacking scandal claimed Thursday that Princess Diana gave him a royal phone directory, the Agence France-Presse and Associated Press reported. Read more

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Rupert Murdoch on closing News of the World: ‘I panicked’

The second day of Rupert Murdoch’s testimony before Britain’s Leveson inquiry into press ethics has been far more grabby than on Wednesday, when, as Michael Wolff put it, Murdoch “gave nothing….He was the ordinary and down-to-earth guy, whereas his Leveson inquiry antagonists were just this side of wild conspiracists. He was Hyman Roth in the Godfather: just ‘a retired investor living on a pension.’” Read more

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Morning media roundup: How to borrow a horse from Scotland Yard

WHY THE LONG FACE? Just when you thought the News Corp. phone hacking story couldn’t get any stranger, it came out Tuesday that Scotland Yard loaned a horse to former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks. Raisa, a 22-year-old retired police horse, went to live with Brooks post-retirement. “Scotland Yard,” writes John F. Burns, “issued a statement on Tuesday describing the horse loan as routine.”

>> Now that a day has passed, British papers not owned by Rupert Murdoch are not giving up on the story of a powerful editor borrowing a horse from a police force her paper covers. The Telegraph quotes a police spokesperson: “When the horse was returned Raisa was regarded by officers from Mounted Branch to be in a poor but not serious condition.” The Independent explains how the horse came to be transferred from “a retirement paddock in Norfolk” to Brooks’ farm in Chipping Norton, where, a propos of nothing but at this point you never know, Brooks is neighbors with “Top Gear” host Jeremy Clarkson.

>> Murdoch, on Twitter: “Now they are complaining about R Brooks saving an old horse from the glue factory!” Yep, Twitter had fun with that one. Read more

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A former News of the World editor explains why he continued to use someone as a source after police deemed him an unreliable witness:

“Most of the people I deal with would be regarded as unreliable witnesses. I’ve had front page splashes from crack addicts.”

Former News of the World investigations editor Mazher Mahmood

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New York Times repeats false Guardian claim about News of the World

It has been well documented that The Guardian has had to make close to 40 corrections on articles after the paper discovered there was no evidence to support its allegation that reporters at the News of the World had deleted voicemails belonging to Milly Dowler, a missing girl.

The erroneous accusation was contained in The Guardian’s explosive July expose about the phone hacking activities of News of the World staffers. Dowler was in fact murdered, and her family has said the deletion of the voicemails gave them hope at the time that she was still alive. (One of the subheads on the original Guardian story read, “Deleted voicemails gave family false hope.”)

The Guardian has faced an onslaught of criticism (here’s one recent example) from those who say its incorrect allegation was a contributing factor to the ultimate demise of the News of the World — and that its corrections fails to match the offense.

With all of the discussion and press focused on the Guardian error and corrections, you’d think we wouldn’t see the false allegation repeated in the press. But as Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici documented today, the New York Times repeated the voicemail claim in a report. Here’s the offending graph from the story:

News International’s acknowledgment that the The News of the World had hacked into [a] teenager’s phone at a time when there was still hope that she remained alive, and deleted messages left by her family and friends so as to make room for others, was a watershed in the scandal.

The article now has a correction appended:

An earlier version of this article misstated the extent of News International’s acknowledgment of its involvement in the hacking of the voicemail of a teenage murder victim, Milly Dowler, in 2002. The company  has acknowledged hacking the girl’s phone — not deleting her messages.

Bercovici wrote:

Good luck getting readers to stop buying the juicy but wrong version when even journalists covering the saga can’t seem to keep it straight. As I’ve noted before, when it comes to News Corp. and phone hacking, a lot of people seem willing to believe the very worst, even when the evidence is clearly lacking.

As background, here’s the correction placed at the bottom of the original Guardian report:

An article about the investigation into the abduction and death of Milly Dowler (News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone during police hunt, 5 July, page 1) stated that voicemail “messages were deleted by [NoW] journalists in the first few days after Milly’s disappearance in order to free up space for more messages. As a result friends and relatives of Milly concluded wrongly that she might still be alive.” Since this story was published new evidence – as reported in the Guardian of 10 December – has led the Metropolitan police to believe that this was unlikely to have been correct and that while the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone the newspaper is unlikely to have been responsible for the deletion of a set of voicemails from the phone that caused her parents to have false hopes that she was alive, according to a Metropolitan police statement made to the Leveson inquiry on 12 December.

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