Some selected paragraphs from my piece with Nico Hines for the Daily Beast on Brooks’ first appearance in the witness box. Read the whole thing here
Rarely has such a high profile figure in British public life had to face criminal allegations which cover most of their career. Brooks described how she had risen through the ranks of Fleet Street to become one of the most powerful players in British media.
On the way she became personal friends of the last three prime ministers. Tony Blair would party with her in Notting Hill, and as an email entered in evidence yesterday alleged, offered to become a secret “unofficial advisor” to Brooks and the Murdoch family during the height of the phone hacking scandal in 2011. She attended sleepovers with Gordon Brown’s wife, Sarah, Elizabeth Murdoch and Wendi Deng at the prime minister’s country retreat at Chequers. And she was a regular visitor and supporter of her neighbour in the Oxfordshire countryside, David Cameron.
She told the court that her progress through the ranks had been difficult because the tabloids were still dominated by men. There “was probably a bit of old-school misogyny,” she said. “It was a difficult world.”
Brooks said she had suffered personal attacks and once found a file about her “perceived mistakes or stupid stories,” called “Twat 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6”.
Despite the old fashioned attitude towards women, Brooks said there was an intensely competitive environment between staff in the office regardless of gender, and that in particular the news and features desks were in a state of perpetual war. “If I’d been a bloke or a woman, the competition between the two desks was ingrained into the News of the World’s history. They really didn’t like each other.”
“It was almost like the News of the World news desk would rather… the Mirror had the story than the features desk or The Sun. There was quite lot of competition”, Brooks said.
She recounted one moment when her phone line was cut through by journalists from the news desk after the features department ran a story that the newspaper bosses were excited about.
Once she had been promoted from the features desk to deputy editor of the News of the World, she would sometimes be responsible for editing the paper on a Saturday, press day. That meant a call from Murdoch. “He would ask ‘What’s going on?’ that was always his opening gambit, and it was up to you to tell him what was going on,” Brooks said.
She recalled the first time he had walked into her office in person.: “I remember him coming into my office for the first time when I was deputy editor and he sat down and said ‘It’s a big challenge at a young age,’ kind advice. ‘You’ve got a long career ahead, take your time, learn on the job.”