Fake sheikhs and royal trappings
Do the great British public get the press the "Red Tops" think they deserve? Or are the tabloids' pious protestations of public interest really just a self-serving attempt to halt declining circulation? Peter Burden examines the News of the World's performance—with its Fake Sheikh and the illegal mobile phone tapping, which lead to a jail sentence for royal reporter Clive Goodman and the resignation of the editor. Burden also highlights the papers hypocrisy when Mazher Mahmood, the Fake Sheikh, was himself unmasked. This is a book for everyone concerned about standards in British tabloid journalism and people who care about privacy rights and the debate over serving the Public Interest versus the interest of the public.
Peter Burden had a rich experience of life before becoming a full-time author. He worked as a restaurant troubadour, fashionista, and frustrated race-horse owner, the latter leading him to collaborate with big names such as John Francome, Jenny Pitman and Leslie Phillips. His book, News of the world? Fake Sheikhs & Royal Trappings, was described by former NotW editor, Derek Jameson as “a well-documented exposure of underhand tactics, gross intrusion and embarrassing cock-ups.”
Peter Burden admits that he is not a journalist but he does a very journalistic examination of the methods used by News of the World to get some of their big front page stories and it makes uncomfortable reading (although not entirely surprising given what we now know and what we probably suspected at the time.) He could do an update now that the News of the World has closed down it would seem many of his accusations and assumptions were correct with knobs on. (I found the 'Harry Potter' story particularly upsetting and distasteful and wonder what happened afterwards to the reporter involved in that incident?)A similar but more light-hearted read is Stick it Up Your Punter, a hilarious account of Kelvin McKenzie's time as editor of The Sun. Piers Morgan's book The Insider is also interesting but obviously totally biased.I am giving it 5 stars because I enjoyed it so much and he clearly did a good deal of research but what I would like to have known a little about was how widespread this type of corruption was inside the NoW. Many journalists at the News of the World claim just a few of their reporters were 'rogue' and I would like to have known a little more about what the rest of the staff thought or knew about what their more colourful colleagues were getting up to. Were the others quietly ignoring them or were they admiring them? Joining in at times or just keeping their heads down?
Fast-paced, funny and full of genuine scoops - one wonders if the author had to resort to the same dirty tricks on hacks as he claims they pull on their celebrity targets. As a journo on a tabloid myself in the past, I can certainly attest to the truth of at least some of the stunts. The latter half of the book is largely about the News of the World, and no less gripping for that. You even find yourself feeling sorry for the Z-list slebs that get hit on and done over. The papers, of course, don't really want to publicise this book - which is why it's even more important that everyone reads it. One warning: you'll never believe anything you read in the papers again.
If you think you know something about how newspapers work, think again - this book is fascinating, looking into the grubby world of tabloid journalism. Should be required reading for media students - and for all readers of the News of the World, frankly. Well worth a read, particularly with the Andy Coulson debate.