Today, the Leveson Inquiry heard from three of the people behind the news; the afternoon testimony of Paul McMullan was both the most enlightening and the most odious.
The complete testimony from all the witnesses can be found on the Leveson Inquiry website. Reports on yesterday's testimony from Anne Diamond can be found here; Chalotte Church, here; and Chris Jefferies, here.
The first witness today was Richard Peppiatt, who had worked for among others the Daily Star, but he is a relative newcomer to the profession by dint of his youth. He didn't last long, primarily because he was not prepared to fabricate stories or pander to a particular ideological slant, although he did both in the first instance.
One of his milder complaints was that the paper pandered to advertisers or potential advertisers, on one occasion he ended up in effect modelling Marks & Spencer underwear.
Richard Peppiatt is sworn in at the Leveson Inquiry, November 29, 2011.
The Daily Star had a smaller budget than its rivals, and in fact often cribbed stories from them. It was budgetary constraints rather than ethics that he said was the reason the paper did not go in for phone hacking and other dirty tricks, although he said he had himself been the victim of such dirty tricks after resigning his post.
Richard Peppiatt testifies to the Leveson Inquiry, November 29, 2011.
Another thing he mentioned was writing stories under pressure; it was impossible he said to write 8 or 9 stories a day and fact check them all. Some stories were literally manufactured in house such as the report that Angelina Jolie was to play Susan Boyle; a video game based on the Raoul Moat rampage; and Paul McCartney and his ex-wife having a “showdown” on ice.
With regard to Susan Boyle, he was told to don a kilt and propose to her, which he did. She told him where to go.
The second witness, Nick Davies of the Guardian, told the Inquiry that he is currently writing a book about phone hacking. he said he had worked for Mirror Group but had been bullied out of that. He has been with the Guardian long term, and his interest in phone hacking had begun by accident.
Nick Davies being sworn in at the Leveson Inquiry, November 29, 2011.
The problem with this is claim is that by inference, some people will not testify without a guarantee of anonymity, and of course, once a journalist - or anyone - relies primarily on anonymous sources, how can they possibly be verified? This sort of evidence is considered either unreliable or more usually inadmissible in normal court proceedings, which is what this Inquiry is not.
Nick Davies testifies to the Leveson Inquiry, November 29, 2011.
Paul McMullan had worked for the late and unlamented News Of The World, and his evidence was both remarkable in its scope and breathtaking in its, and his, arrogance. McMullan was the hack who rescued Hugh Grant when the A List actor's car broke down in the backwaters of Kent.
He spent much of his time on the stand disparaging Grant and other thespians, including Sienna Miller. Grant had refused to hand over the tapes to the police and to this Inquiry, and McMullan himself was a hero, in his own eyes, at any rate.
McMullan has gone on record that dirty tricks, not simply phone hacking, were widespread among the tabloids. He said he personally had been offered all the phone numbers of all the police officers on a particular force; the criminal underworld also used these techniques.
Asked point blank if the News Of The World had ever hacked anyone's e-mail account, he said as far as he knew, no, although there is now the technology available that allowed smartphones and apps to be read covertly but said he had been “out of the loop” for the past couple of years. One point he made is that whatever rules, rulings or laws are made as a result of this Inquiry, foreign journalists don't care and won't comply.
His evidence was not entirely without humour; 15 years ago in a sting operation he had posed as Brad the teenage rent boy to entrap a priest who liked spanking underage boys. Some would argue that his type of journalism amounts to prostitution in all but name.
Paul McMullan testifies to the Leveson Inquiry, November 29, 2011.
On the subject of privacy, he said privacy is for paedos; privacy is evil; privacy allows people to do bad things. Is that a tabloid hack talking or a police officer? If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
This guy does have his good points, in particular a healthy contempt for the British police whom he described as more Inspector Clouseau than Sherlock Holmes. He also expressed regret over his apparently contributing to the death of a young woman who had fallen on hard times and was both selling her body and using drugs.
He said and undoubtedly believes the Cameron Government to have been elected due to criminality, but with his flagrant admission of, inter alia, claiming excessive expenses, it remains to be seen why he believes Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson are scum, while he isn't.
The Inquiry continues tomorrow.