The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

  • MS MICHELLE STANISTREET (affirmed).

  • Thank you very much. Could you please state your full name.

  • Ms Stanistreet, you've provided the Inquiry with three separate statements. Can just confirm what they are. The first was your opening statement, also referred to as your first witness statement. There's then been a second witness statement and two exhibits, which have been the subject of a ruling from the Chairman, and a third statement on Derek Webb and press cards and so on, which I'll come to. Is that your evidence to the Inquiry?

  • Can you confirm that the contents of all the statements I've referred to are true and accurate to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • I'm going to take them chronologically, and start with the first statement. If we look at the first page of the statement, I can just touch on your career history. You explain on the first page that you are the elected general secretary of the National Union of Journalists. Prior to that you worked as a journalist for ten years at the Sunday Express newspaper as a feature writer and books editor. You were the NUJ mother of the chapel at Express Newspapers as well as the national representative for newspapers and agencies on the NUJ's ruling NEC. In fact, you became the first woman in the NUJ's history to be elected as general secretary in April 2011, and the first woman deputy general secretary elected in 2008.

  • Then you tell us a little about the National Union of Journalists. You explain that it is the voice for journalism and for journalists across the UK and Ireland. It was founded in 1907 and currently has around 38,000 members. You explain that that 38,000-strong membership works in all sectors of the media, including staff, students and freelancers, writers, reporters editors, subeditors, photographers, illustrators and people who also work in PR.

    I am not going to spend very long with you on your first statement because you read it out and I think you probably on that basis have said what you want to say about it, but there's one issue I'd like to take up again on that if I can and that's the campaign for a conscience clause.

    You explained in your opening statement that the NUJ has campaigned for a conscience clause for many years. In the light of everything that you've heard at this Inquiry over the past few months, is that something that the NUJ would still advocate? And if so, why?

  • I think everything we've heard at the Inquiry to date has just shown exactly why it's so vital that journalists have the protection of that conscience clause, so that when faced with pressure to do something that's unethical, when faced with a directive from the editor to carry out a piece of work that they believe contravenes the NUJ's code of conduct, that as members they sign up to adhere to, they can stand up and say, "Actually, I'm not going to carry out that work, and I'm invoking my conscience clause in doing so", and they can take that stance and stand up for their journalistic ethics knowing that they can't then be sacked or dismissed summarily for not adhering to their own personal contract with their employer. As things stand, journalists simply don't have that protection.

  • Is there a difference between the NUJ conscience clause in their deal with you and the approach of the PCC?

  • We have -- there are different codes of conducts that exist, and we believe ours -- ours it is very straightforward, it's ten points. They are principles that all journalists who are members of our union adhere to, but nobody at the moment has this kind of conscience clause. It just doesn't exist. So at the moment journalists, wherever they work in the media industry, don't have that protection. And if they don't have at the same time a collective organisation within that workforce, a trade union voice, they don't even have anybody independent to turn to and to raise concerns that they have or to highlight the pressure that they're coming under to deliver work that is contravening their ethics.

  • The reason I ask the question is slightly different, because there are many journalists -- you may have 38,000 -- who aren't members of the NUJ, yet would doubtless want the protection of a clause to permit them to refuse to do something that didn't comply with an accepted code of ethics. So what I'm really testing is whether a conscience clause couldn't be sufficiently drafted to fit whatever code of conduct ultimately there is.

  • I think it absolutely could be drafted in that way and to deliver that. I mean, we'd love it if the industry adopted our code of conduct as standard. I think -- you know, and there's scope for that in some quarters. I know there are even people within the PCC who would respect our code of conduct and think it's a very good one, but I think there needs to be a recognised code of conduct and then journalists, wherever they work, should have the protection of the conscience clause, and employers shouldn't be able to opt out of that. It should be something that's there and available to all journalists to protect them in their day to day work.

  • Since you've touched on the code of conduct, we should probably turn it up briefly. It's reference number 02396 and it was annexed to the first statement of Ms Stanistreet. Is there any aspect of that that you'd like to draw to our attention? Do you have that with you?

  • Are there any aspects about it you'd particularly like to draw to the Chairman's attention, given the answers you've just given us?

  • I think -- I mean, they're all very clear principles, there's 12 of them, and it -- they highlight not just the principles by which a journalist stands by in terms of their ethics and how they carry out their work, but I would like to stress how actually it also very much stresses public accountability and the accountability and responsibility that journalists have in carrying out their work to ordinary members of the public, and that's something, as the NUJ, that we've always campaigned very hard for. You know, we believe that that public accountability is also a very important element of this that employers need to take much more seriously than they currently do.

  • Before I turn away from the first statement, is there anything that you wanted to particularly draw out from that statement?

  • I think one of the key -- the key things that I believe I explained in my opening statement and that I think is really fundamental when we're looking at the future as to how we could avoid the situation that we've got to so far, and I think it's vital that journalists have the protection of an independent trade union within their workplace. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case for so many journalists who work in the industry at the moment. Not only do they not have a recourse to that in their workplace, they work for employers who are actively hostile to the NUJ as the independent trade union for journalists here, and when they have a difficulty, they just simply don't have anywhere to turn internally. And whilst of course we represent individual members wherever they work, it's within very severe constraints and limitations if we don't have, as a trade union, the right to collective bargaining within that workplace, because of course the NUJ doesn't simply deal with issues of bread and butter trade union, pay and terms and conditions. We're there to defend journalistic ethics and the very principles by which the industry should set its standards.

  • All right. Can I move on to the second statement or was there anything else you wanted to say?

  • The second statement was prepared with a view to ensuring that the voices of anonymous journalists could be heard at this Inquiry. I want to take you through some the paragraphs of the statement before we look at the exhibits thereto. Can we turn to paragraph 4 onwards of this statement first of all.

  • You explain there that you and other officers and members of the NUJ spent much time over several weeks identifying journalists to give evidence of their experiences of the culture, practice and ethics of the press to the Inquiry. You circulated the entire membership in November to ask if any member had and would provide evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. You attach the circular at MS2.

    If you look at MS2, it's a three and a half page letter, it makes clear that the NUJ has been granted core participant status, it explains what the NUJ is planning to do at this Inquiry. Then at the bottom of Page 3 it says this:

    "To that end, the NUJ is asking for members to come forward and share your experiences, whether it's on journalistic practices, your experience of how matters ethical are handled in your current or previous workplace, about how your working culture could be improved or problems you have had to deal with that you feel the Leveson Inquiry should consider. Please get in touch with me.

    "Lord Justice Leveson has also been clear in stating that he is interested in the full breadth of culture, practice and ethics in the press. That means the good practice as well as the bad. This is an Inquiry that could shape the future of our industry and it is vital that the views of working journalists are heard and seriously considered."

    And then you go on to say that you will deal with queries personally and in confidence and testimony can be put through to the Inquiry anonymously.

  • Can you tell us perhaps -- you say, going back to your statement, paragraph 5, around 40 journalists, members of the union, got in touch with you as a result, and you personally interviewed them either face to face or on the telephone. Did any of them provide you with written evidence?

  • Yes, some did and some I spoke to and they also sent me information in writing.

  • You explain further down the same paragraph that in MS1, the first exhibit to this statement, you have reported what some 13 of them told you. Is there a correction to be made there?

  • How did you get down from 40 to 12?

  • Many journalists got in touch with me to share their thoughts about how the Inquiry was going, about the types of witnesses who were coming forward. Some journalists wanted to give ideas and suggestions about future model of press regulation, which we're going to be dealing with separately, we'll be making a separate submission about the NUJ's suggested model of future regulation. So there was a variety of issues that people were raising with me.

    Some people I spoke to and they shared experiences on a whole range of different issues, many of which is covered here, whether it's on bullying or it's treatment that they've experienced or examples of unethical practice, but they absolutely didn't want it to be shared even in confidence.

  • Did you reject anyone who may have provided positive feedback about their experiences of being a journalist?

  • No, absolutely not, and as you can see, I was very clear in the circular that I sent out, which we also disseminated through the unions, email bulletins on our website, that actually I wanted to hear and the Inquiry wanted to hear, more importantly, examples of the good as well as the bad, and no, sadly, I haven't had a queue of journalists who were coming forward to share great experiences in their workplace.

  • Presumably people who wanted to applaud the work of their employers wouldn't be afraid of doing so publicly.

  • Absolutely not. I haven't seen many of them here in the Inquiry sharing that kind of testimony with you.

  • When you spoke to the journalists who came forward, did you take any steps to check whether the journalists knew each other or had spoken to each other in advance of coming to talk to you?

  • I spoke to journalists, as far as I know they haven't been speaking to other -- none of them are connected in any way. They are journalists who work in a range of different newspapers, they are journalists who live in a variety of different places, and no, there are no shared links. But I would say that journalism is -- it's a small pool of people relatively as an industry and many journalists know other journalists within their industry. That's just the way things are.

  • Did you personally ask any questions to ascertain whether or not they had spoken to each other in advance of coming to talk to you?

  • Sorry, I should also add that the very fact of them coming to talk to me wasn't something that they were sharing with other people. It was something they were deliberately being very cautious about and absolutely didn't want anybody else to know that they were coming forward and talking to me.

  • Did you ask -- sorry, I've been asked a number of questions to put to you and I'm trying to do that. Did you ask whether the journalists had spoken to others, such as Mr Davies, Nick Davies, for example, or anyone else who have given evidence to the Inquiry based on what they were told?

  • No, I didn't ask them that question about Nick Davies, nor would I. Nick has written a book in which he obviously has his own sources. I wouldn't expect any journalist or anybody to tell me that they were a confidential source for another piece of journalism or for a book. As a journalist myself, I would jealously guard my own sources and protect their confidentiality and I would absolutely respect Nick's protection of his sources and the anonymity of the people who have come forward and spoken to him.

  • So you sent out this letter, got some responses. In the end, 12 permitted you to record what they'd said in this way and then present it in MS1, which we're going to come on to look in a moment. Can you tell us about how the interviewed were conducted? Did you take contemporaneous notes?

  • I did. For all of the interviews that I conducted, I took contemporaneous notes.

  • How did you decide which questions to ask them?

  • I wanted to talk to each of them about their experiences, about their time as a journalist in a range of whatever workplaces that they'd been in. I asked them -- I mean, the way that actually most of the interviews happened is that once people started talking, they literally covered an awful lot of terrain in many instances, particularly in the cases about bullying. I asked them did they feel that they had support to speak out about journalistic -- you know, their journalistic ethics or about the treatment that they were on the receiving end of, and I asked them whether or not -- why they didn't feel that they could speak openly and publicly about their experiences to the Inquiry.

  • Presumably you were taking a manuscript note of these conversations. When did you type up the notes?

  • Immediately after, which is my practice as a journalist anyway. This would have been -- this is the way I worked when I was working full-time as a journalist. I was a feature writer and books editor, so taking lengthy interviews was my day-to-day work. I have always relied on handwritten notes, shorthand, handwritten notes, even in times when I've used a dictaphone, and all of the people I spoke to when I was carrying out personal interviews them, many of them absolutely specified that I could not use a dictaphone, that they didn't want anything recorded, so as a matter of course for all of the interviews, I did handwritten notes and typed them up immediately afterwards.

  • And you didn't record any of them?

  • When you were transcribing the manuscript notes and typing them up and then creating MS1, how did you edit what you had been told? What did you leave out, I think is the question?

  • There were some specific examples, anecdotes, that some individuals shared that would have absolutely identified them as journalists, so anything that would have enabled people to piece together their identity, even by jigsaw means, I omitted. So these would have been specific examples of, "When I was writing this particular story or tasked with this particular job, this is what happened to me", so in terms of the generalities of the treatments, that's remained in there, but there are some examples of specific occasions where I felt, and the journalist I was talking to felt, it would have enabled somebody else to figure out who they were.

  • Did you leave out any material that could conceivably be relevant to the issues that the chairman is considering at this Inquiry?

  • No, I didn't. I wanted the chairman and I wanted the Inquiry and the general public to have as broad a view and as clear an insight into the reality of working life for most ordinary journalists, far too many journalists in the industry. So if there had've been positive things to say, I would have happily left them in there as well. I haven't edited to suit at all.

  • I'm still going through my list of questions I've been asked to put to you. Have each of the journalists now seen and confirmed that the parts of MS1 that concern them are accurate?

  • Yes, and I've spoken to all of the journalists, yes.

  • On 7 February, you may be aware, Lord Justice Leveson gave a ruling on the admission of anonymous evidence that you've collated, and at paragraph 21 of that, he said this:

    "I am not prepared to rule out these statements on the basis of failure to provide notes, but will consider adopting the same practice pursued in relation to the challenge to the transcript provided by Chris Atkins. That would require Ms Stanistreet to show counsel to the Inquiry copies of her notes, redacted to remove the name of any journalist who provided the information, thereby protects his or her anonymity. Counsel will then be able to confirm the fair presentation of the material, and if there is any difficulty in that regard, I will reconsider the matter."

    Now, it's not usual for counsel to the Inquiry to give evidence, so I'm going to ask you to confirm a series of statements, if I can.

    Can you confirm that we met yesterday afternoon?

  • I viewed all your notes that were relevant to this paragraph of the ruling?

  • And you showed me 12 sets of notes relating to all 12 journalists referred to in MS1?

  • You told me that although you spoke with all 12 journalists, some of them had sent written notes containing their versions of events and you also showed me those notes prepared by the journalists themselves?

  • And then there's a reference to the fact that you typed up your notes; we've covered that.

    Sir, I don't think Ms Stanistreet is going to be able to confirm the conclusions that I've reached but you've seen --

  • No, she isn't. I'm prepared, so that it's clear and within the public domain: you undertook that exercise with Ms Stanistreet's consent. There is absolutely nothing that you have seen that in any sense might assist core participants or undermine anything that the witnesses have said.

  • In other words, you've done the exercise.

  • And you're satisfied that everything has been done which I required to be done.

  • Thank you.

    Well, that's not evidence, but I accept it.

  • Sir, I was going to move on now to look at the MS1 in a little more detail, but given the time, I'm wondering if, before I move on to that, we should simply break and come back early.

  • Yes, we'll start again at 1.55, if that's all right. Thank you.

  • (The luncheon adjournment)

  • Ms Stanistreet, before we broke for lunch, we were about to turn to exhibit 1 of your second witness statement. Before we do that, I want to touch on two paragraphs of the witness statement itself, paragraphs 23 and 26. Have a quick look at those. I want to touch on the reasons why these journalists have remained anonymous. Paragraph 23:

    "I asked all journalists I spoke to whether they would be willing to speak publicly and on the record about their experiences. In an ideal world, this of course would be the best way of the Inquiry being able to learn first hand the reality of working life for many journalists. However, the response was unanimous that speaking out publicly was not an option."

    Can I summarise your evidence as this: you did actually try to see whether any of them would -- any individually would speak out publicly but the answer was no in every case?

  • That's right. And of course in the circular that I had disseminated, I did say I was prepared to take the experiences in confidence as well, and that's the basis on which many people replied. But yes, obviously the ideal would be that journalists could come here and could talk openly and honestly about their experiences of life in the industry, and sadly that's just not an option.

  • The reasons they gave you, if you continue the same paragraph, were: fear of consequences, the reaction of their employers, the fear of never being able to work in the industry again, punishment for speaking out, worried about career blight, and the overwhelming fear that their reputations would be trashed in public by powerful media groups. Then you say this:

    "Those working in precarious employment relying on casual shifts of freelance work were particularly threatened about the immediate consequences of giving evidence openly. These fears were expressed vehemently by all."

    Then you go on to say at paragraph 26, essentially you give your comment on whether or not you think that the testimony you report can be dismissed as the gripes of an individual. Perhaps you could just elaborate a little on that. You conclude that these are not rogue reporters with individual gripes against individual newspapers but they present a coherent picture of what's going on in the industry. How did you come to that conclusion?

  • Obviously I've spoken to many journalists in the course of this Inquiry and in the process of trying to encourage people to talk openly or, if not, in confidence through me, and some of the testimony from those journalists is here today, but there's testimony that's not because people were not even -- some people were not even prepared or they didn't even feel able to speak in confidence to me, and they felt too scared about their experiences being shared through the Inquiry because they really were petrified that actually somebody would be able to identify them and that that would have negative repercussions on their career and on their future prospects in journalism.

    So I know that these are not isolated examples of unpleasantness in a workplace or isolated examples of unethical practice. It's also, of course, many of the officials who work for me deal with personal cases of journalists on a daily basis, and the issues that have been raised here in this testimony are reflected in many of the cases the union takes up all the time. Sadly, it's a sad fact that actually these problems are very prevalent within the industry today.

  • We have to be rather careful, haven't we, Ms Stanistreet, to distinguish between what I might describe as employment-related issues and public-facing issues, because there is a difference.

  • Well, there is a difference, but I'm not talking about grievances, about industrial matters in a work environment. I'm talking about officials who deal with cases of bullying, of sexual harassment, of sexism within the workplace, of journalists who are put under intolerable pressure to deliver by bosses who are bullying them routinely. So they're also cases that aren't directly related to in the testimony but I know exist and the officials who work for me know exist within the broader industry, and that's why I think it's really important to state, and I'm absolutely convinced of the fact, that these are not 12 individual instances of abuses; these are a much greater collective experience of far too many journalists.

  • Well, of course there comes a time when it's very difficult for me to turn what is a qualitative exercise into a quantitative exercise.

  • I think I've said that in the last ruling that I gave.

  • What we're going to do now, please, is go through your exhibit to your second witness statement. We're going to look at the 12 examples in summary form, if we can. What I will do is I'll paraphrase each testimony and if there's anything that you think I've missed out that's particularly relevant, then please draw it to our attention.

    Before I do that, though, two points: first of all, is it correct to say that all the journalists whose testimony is represented here are still working in the industry?

  • And secondly, you'll see that the exhibit has been significantly redacted to remove references to names and references to names of newspapers and also particular incidents have been redacted, but the News of the World remains in. Why has that approach been taken?

  • Well, I hope it's been taken because that's the approach I directed.

  • Yes, I haven't made the redactions, obviously, it's the Inquiry team who have made these redactions.

  • I just wanted to get that across.

    We'll start with journalist number one.

    First of all, I should say that the exhibit is split into several parts in the sense that different categories of behaviour have been identified, and the first is bullying. We'll see that at the top of the first page. A number of journalists speak about bullying. The first journalist is a journalist of 30 years' experience across the industry, in recent years working as a casual reporter on a number of national titles.

    This journalist, I'll call him or her journalist number one, worked for the News of the World for over three years and says quite a number of things about the News of the World. Can I just paraphrase them in this way: first he says that -- when I say "he", I will mean he or she, it's just easier than saying he or she continuously.

    First of all, he says there was tremendous pressure at News of the World and that he was given absolutely impossible tasks and was told that if he couldn't achieve them essentially that he was a failure. He then talks about a number of individuals and we'll just have to skip over that because those names are redacted.

    Over the page at 1.5, explains that there was a real military chain of command, that you did what you were told when you were told, and it took a pretty brave person to take a stand. Life was made miserable, and he goes on to say:

    "... you'd quickly find yourself out of work ... You grit your teeth and put up with it. If you want a career in the future, you shut up and you keep quiet. There's a lot of that about at the moment."

    Paraphrasing, that's his experience at News of the World. At 1.6 he says:

    "But the reality is that what happened at the News of the World is not an exception. The culture is macho, it pervades the industry. I worked at [another title] -- it's absolutely petrifying there. They work you like dogs. The expectations for a reporter are ridiculous. There are always unrealistic demands."

    Again he makes the same point that if you do not achieve, you are made to feel like a failure and you are given a number of impossible to achieve tasks.

    Then goes on to say:

    "The culture is competitive, deliberately so. News editors throw reporters onto the same story, everyone's terrified of putting a foot wrong."

    He says at the end of that paragraph:

    "Even when you think you've done a great job, there's no reward or appreciation."

    He talks about the levels of paranoia and pressure and explained that applied not only to casual reporters but to staff reporters as well, but as a freelance, he explains, there's no security at all. Halfway through paragraph 1.8 he says this:

    "You worked long hours. You had to deliver, there was no mercy. The money's terrible. Freelancers are expected to use their own laptop, mobile and car. It's impossible to even get your expenses repaid sometimes. You are denied even the most basic tools of the trade. You're expected to pull stories out of the bag just like the staffers. You couldn't say anything in fear of losing your work."

    He then goes on to say, still I presume talking about freelancers:

    "There's been a creation of a second, third class culture of journalists. People on staff contracts, sometimes doing next to nothing, then there's people working really hard, with no security or contract, getting paid next to nothing."

    And explains that he himself is experienced and skilled but still made to feel that he's on a very low level.

    At 1.10 onwards he explains why it's impossible for him to speak out. He says:

    "Being pragmatic, there is that fear that if you do what Sean (Hoare) did or Paul McMullan, you don't work in the industry again. Their reputations have been trashed. But they were quite brave in doing what they did, in telling the truth.

    Can I pause there and ask you a question: was his evidence to you -- obviously him or her -- you heard him or her giving you this evidence, was the evidence there that he believed Sean Hoare and Paul McMullan to have spoken the truth?

  • There was no physical evidence apart from that is this journalist's fervent belief, that everyone they have witnessed leads them to believe that actually what we've heard from Paul McMullan, what Sean Hoare had reported in the interviews that he gave, that they were being honest and open about the reality of working life in that newspaper.

  • There's two final points which are important to make. In 1.11 he says:

    "What's striking is that there's nowhere to turn. I've always been a member of the NUJ but in [X place] the union's not allowed in. There was no sense that there was anyone internally who'd help."

    I'll come on to ask you about unions in other organisations in due course.

    The other point is at 1.12:

    "There is a real culture of journalists like myself feeling utterly betrayed at the moment, we've been vilified at Leveson, within the public domain. But we've also been betrayed by the newspaper management."

    Can you explain as best you can why there was an expression of feeling that journalists like him had been betrayed?

  • Because there's a very real feeling amongst journalists at the moment that ever since this scandal blew up, the News of the World and News International as one organisation did all it could for a long time to peddle an untruth that this was simply the act of a rogue reporter. We all know now that that's not true, and that since then and in recent months, there's been a deliberate attempt by major media organisations, by the bosses within the industry, to pin the blame on individual journalists and to scapegoat ordinary working journalists as somehow being to blame for these unethical abusive practices, that somehow they knew nothing about what was going on in their own newsrooms, and to any working journalist, that's fanciful, not true. Editors on national newspapers particularly are about as hands-on as they get.

    So there is a real prevalent feeling of betrayal amongst journalists, particularly those who have given their entire career and working life to particular news groups.

  • I wouldn't want it to be thought that the conclusion that this particular journalist expresses about journalists and journalism in general is one that I share. I've said more than once, and I'm happy to repeat, that I consider a great majority of the journalism in this country from all areas is very much in the public interest, and a very great credit. That's not to say that there isn't some in respect of whom I am likely to take, given the evidence, a different view. But I am keen to make it clear to you and just in response to this -- and it deals with a point that was made the other day -- that the mere fact that we are focusing on examples of poor behaviour or poor ethical decision-making shouldn't be taken as a view that this is what I think of the world.

    When Dame Janet Smith conducted the inquiry into the regulation of the medical profession following the activities of Dr Harold Shipman, nobody suggested that there were other doctors out there who were behaving as he did. Inevitably an inquiry of this nature requires focus on the areas that suggest change is necessary, but it's important that the context is provided, and if that reassures this particular journalist, and indeed everybody with whom this Inquiry is concerned, then I am pleased to give that reassurance.

  • Ms Stanistreet, still under the heading bullying, we turn to journalist number two. This is a journalist with less experience, six years' experience, who explains at 1.13 that although he is still doing some freelance work, he's pretty much decided he doesn't want to be a journalist any more now, after what he has experienced.

    He also spent some time at the News of the World. That's apparent from 1.14, and explains again, as the previous journalist did, that he experienced pretty much constant bullying, and he gives some specific examples about emails being sent behind his back, comments being made about weight and then at 1.15 gives some other examples about young reporters being made to wear stupid costumes and parade around the office. Gives the specific example of a reporter having to go out addressed head to toe in meat for a Lady Gaga story, and explains that he considers the atmosphere to be sexist and degrading.

    Explains at 1.16 that simply if you don't do the job then you've not got a contract, you're existing on freelance shifts, and explains how quickly someone can lose their position if they don't toe the line.

    Again the journalist touches on some of the previous aspects: unrealistic deadlines, being shouted at, being made to be a failure if they did not achieve what they were asked to and then makes the same point about unions at 1.19 also:

    "There's a staff association, NISA, but you weren't allowed to go along if you were a casual and you couldn't raise stuff like bullying with them anyway. You know they are there to serve the company, not an individual journalist's interests. They don't even let the NUJ into the building."

    I'm going to go on to ask you about that when I'm looking at your third witness statement. I just want to touch on it for the moment. He then explains at 1.20 the very significant effect that all of this has had on them personally.

    We then turn to the second heading, the heading of "Stress", and we turn to journalist -- you touch on the evidence of Matt Driscoll, which we've heard, and then you turn to the third journalist, someone who has more than 15 years' experience.

    Again this person was at the News of the World and explains some of the same things: tough and unforgiving workplace, mistakes not being tolerated, and goes on to say at the end of 2.1 that three or four staff suffered physical collapses at the office, almost certainly to some extent as a result of the stress. At 2.2 makes a point about Mr Goodman. The journalist says this:

    "Mr Goodman enjoyed a high salary and big title as royal editor and came in for a lot of flak. He'd be publicly lambasted for a lack of stories or ideas in conference, probably more than anyone. It could be embarrassing for everyone when it happened publicly, as it sometimes did, in news conference in front of 20 to 25 other people."

    Then goes on to say at the end of that paragraph:

    "I am not suggesting this excuses his later actions, far from it, but there is no doubt in my mind that he was under intense pressure to deliver."

    Again he then makes a point about the NISA at 2.3, which we don't need to repeat.

    We then turn to the third heading, which is "Hacking and the dark arts", and we turn there to journalist number four. This is a journalist with over 32 years' experience in local and regional newspapers before moving on titles, broadsheet and tabloid, across Fleet Street and then into broadcasting. As far as you're aware, is that person still working in broadcasting?

  • Still working in newspapers and some broadcasting as well.

  • This person goes on to describe in quite a lot of detail the dark arts that are practised. Can you give us a feel -- you absolutely cannot name any names or any names of any newspapers, but can you give us a feel for whether or not the dark arts were practised just across a certain type of title or across the whole range?

  • This journalist's testimony covers time spent on mid-markets, on red tops and in broadsheets.

  • And this is evidence to the effect that the dark arts were practised in all of those?

  • I've been asked to ask you a question about journalist four. Do his experiences as described of phone hacking to obtain confidential information relate to his work in broadcasting only?

  • No, to work in the range of newspapers and newspaper groups that I've just outlined.

  • All right. At 4.1 this gentleman or woman, he or she explains why he cannot give evidence publicly and why he's decided to submit his evidence anonymously through you. He explains that he first became aware of journalistic practices during the 1980s, and on that occasion what he learned was that a journalist regularly employed the services of a private investigator. Then journalist number four came to work closely with that particular journalist and he shared many of his earlier exploits with journalist number four.

    He then met the private investigator and then worked with him on a number of stories. The private investigator, he says, was able to provide surveillance services which involved the bugging of homes and business premises as well as recordings from landline telephones, because of course this was before widespread mobile use, as he explains.

    He explains that the private investigator was always paid cash delivered in envelopes and invariably disguised in a rolled-up newspaper.

    "I saw the senior journalist carrying the cash", he says, "but never witnessed the actual handing over which either happened on my blind side or else when I was not present."

    He then goes on to explain the variety of targets that were targeted, which we don't need to go through, but at 4.5 makes clear that the same investigator was able to furnish the journalists in question, including journalist number four, with police national computer checks when they sought to learn about criminal convictions and cautions, and was also able to access social security records and could frequently provide the most up-to-date home addresses for people. This was invaluable if legitimate searches failed to find them. We see that at the end of 4.5.

  • He then goes on, if we move to 4.8, to say:

    "Initially the use of such techniques wasn't widespread in the newsrooms but instead it was restricted at that time to a few older journalists who had an investigative bent. This was also the situation in the other Fleet Street newsroom which I have worked in. It was known by all the staff reporters and some of the regular freelancers which journalist had the wherewithal to obtain things like ex-directory phone numbers, PNC details and/or medical records."

    He then goes on to describe his own personal circumstances, which I don't think we need to go into, but he concludes at 4.11 that he has no reason to think that any of this changed since he left that particular title and many of the very best practitioners of the so-called dark arts continued to work there, he says.

    He then explains that he moved to another title, we don't know what it was, where the contrast was that the news desk and other senior editorial executives spoke openly about the use of such methods. That's 4.12. Much more of an open secret.

    Then goes on to say at 4.13 that those who objected were routinely abused verbally publicly. Goes on to explain that there might be other sanctions if you didn't toe the line. He then gives other specific examples and concludes that:

    "A small but significant number of those reporters responsible for creating that climate or carrying out the dark arts have subsequently been promoted both within [title] and some to the most senior editorial positions in newspapers elsewhere in Fleet Street."

    He admits himself at 4.16 that he stole, bribed and cheated to obtain information, but what he objects to is the indiscriminate way this was carried out, in situations where there was a spurious public interest justification, and this is why he left and went freelance.

    The only other thing we need to add is 4.18. While freelancing he says he learned from serving police officers about a technique used to help convict paedophiles which involved placing a computer program into a computer in order to discover what was being stored on the hard drive. He quickly realised its potential for news gathering and over a period of about six months acquired the ability from computer programmers how to construct a Trojan computer program.

    After a period of trial and error he found he could obtain confidential information from this method better than from bugging, hacking or theft and bribery. He says in the vain hope that he might not be doing anything wrong, he targeted only people who worked abroad.

  • I don't think that's in the vain hope of not doing anything wrong. I think it's rather different.

  • To deter any police investigation.

  • I'm not quite sure what using a Trojan computer is, if it isn't hacking. All right.

  • He concludes:

    "I know from direct experience that [X] have also used Trojan programs and I have it from good first-hand information that the News of the World also utilised such techniques."

    Am I right in saying "I have it from good first-hand information" that's hearsay evidence, isn't it?

  • There wasn't anything else that he could provide you with?

  • Still on the same subject of the dark arts we have the fifth journalist who has more than 25 years' experience across many national newspaper titles including many years at the News of the World. We're not going to touch upon the bullying culture again, save to note that it's been repeated by this journalist and he also refers at 4.20 to the immense pressure which he faced again. We don't need to read that out.

    At 4.21 and 4.22 and 4.23 he explains that there were individuals at the newspaper who were obviously very difficult to deal with. Talks about ritual humiliation and so on.

    Then at 4.26 on page 11, he explains that an example of bullying or pressure, he would get calls on a Saturday night to say get on the plane at 7 am the next morning. When one girl complained of all the calls she was getting out of hours she got more calls every single week and it drove her out, she was incredibly upset.

    He makes this point at the end of 4.26:

    "The in-house staff association NISA, they're nice people but what are they going to do if you complain about your boss bullying you? He'd have denied it, they'd pay you off, you'd lose your job. Where would you go when there aren't many jobs in Fleet Street any more?"

    I think that's all we need to touch upon, unless there's anything in that particular statement you want to draw to the Inquiry's attention. We'll move on to journalist number six.

  • I think this particular testimony does really underline what a dysfunctional atmosphere working in this newsroom was in terms of the very competitive approach, the way that colleagues were encouraged to, as this journalist says, shaft each other. It certainly made for very uncomfortable listening to me interviewing this person, the extent of the bullying and the unpleasantness that people were expected to put up with day on day. I've dealt with many, many cases of journalists in lots of different circumstances, but I still found this really a very shocking piece of testimony.

  • Journalist number six, who is a freelance photographer of over 15 years' experience. I just wanted to give one example of one particular event. This is a News of the World journalist who took the mobile number given to him or her by a homeless man and then said "Wait a minute" -- I paraphrase 4.35 -- called the number, gave that person on the other end of the line the mobile number that she had just been given, then within 15 minutes somebody called back and gave the name and address of the woman who the phone was registered to. And the journalist notes that this information could only have been obtained from a policeman or someone working for a mobile phone company, but it was unlikely that it was the mobile phone company because the homeless man was never asked which network he was on.

    There's nothing else we need to take from that.

    We then turn to the heading of "Unethical practice" and journalist number seven. This is a reporter who complains at length about their newspaper's continued negative coverage of Islam and the Xenophobic agenda of the newspaper. I don't think we need to read any of this out. Essentially this journalist gives a number of examples of things that they were required to do, stories that they were required to write, and makes clear that whenever they complained or removed parts of the articles that they were asked to write, they would somehow find that bits had found their way back into the article when they were published, and other such -- I don't need to read out every single example.

    At 7.6 the journalist makes clear that when the journalist complained or asked for their byline to be removed from the story, the journalist was portrayed as the token lefty in the newsroom, and then after that this particular journalist was targeted to produce the highest number of anti-Muslim stories. Despite the fact that this journalist never once put forward a story like that. The journalist quite forcefully described being in tears at being asked to do this, but nevertheless the behaviour continuing.

    The journalist concludes by saying essentially that they resigned.

    The only other thing that we need to touch on in relation to this journalist is paragraph 7.10, which is about making the story stand up. The journalist says this:

    "Time and time again when I was faced with a dubious story or one that was proving difficult to substantiate I was instructed to just put in some bystander quotes. Again we received verbal commands on the way those stories should run, to the extent of: put in 'an onlooker said this' or '[X]' in the third paragraph. There was no such onlooker and no direct quotes."

    Going on from there:

    "While I never and was never instructed to make up a story from scratch, I did add substantiating quotes, either under direct instruction from the news editor or just to sensationalise the story as per instruction -- and these were often entirely made up. I was by no means the only person doing so -- and often, if I did not incorporate any sexier substantiating quotes, I found they had magically appeared in my article by the final edit."

    Anything else you wanted to add to that before we move on to journalist number eight?

  • No, I think it paints a very strong picture of life in that newsroom.

  • Journalist number eight also has concerns about the reporting on immigration and asylum and saying it's simply not done in a neutral, even-handed way. I don't think there's anything -- unless there's something you particularly want to draw to our attention, I don't think there's anything we need to say.

    Number nine is a journalist of over 20 years' experience working across a number of national newspapers and this is about a proprietor. This journalist wants to make it clear that this particular proprietor, more than any other proprietor that this journalist knows, cared little for journalistic ethics:

    "He expected reporters to write stories that suited him when it suited him, for example negative stories on [X] on demand or anti-asylum stories and headlines whenever it suited. His intervention made it virtually impossible for anyone to resist him individually, and when as a union we did this and went to the PCC it was useless. I'm not sure that his editorial interference was or is any greater than some others, he was just very brazen about it. Once he came up to my desk and demanded a particular angle on something or else he did it for the editor."

    Journalist number ten is a journalist of 20 years working as a freelance and staffer in national and regional newspapers as well. At 7.22 the journalist makes clear from the outset that he was never involved in investigative methods which might contravene the NUJ ethical standards, but he witnessed a worrying erosion of those standards in almost every newsroom. Explains that in some detail, which we don't need to go through.

    Is there anything else you would like to draw to our attention?

  • The last two journalists deal with the issue of casualisation and the first is journalist number eleven, a freelance journalist of 25 years working across the local and national press and magazine sectors. This journalist explained that when they "... refused to do a biased piece a features editor on [X] wanted me to do I was told I'd never get another commission again and I never did, not for that editor anyway."

    Then goes on to explain why being freelance is a constant challenge.

    Finally journalist 12, a very junior journalist, four years, working on two national titles doing casual shifts. Can you just help us with this. Is this someone who is relatively new to the industry?

  • Yes. They've been working as a journalist just for the last four years, had been working in a different career and had retrained to come into journalism.

  • And still working in the industry?

  • This journalist says:

    "What people don't realise is that the culture in most newsrooms can be really intimidating, especially if you're a young journalist trying to make an impression, desperate to get a contract. I've been shifting for years now. I get paid holiday, just statutory. I do the same job as other reporters here but I'm paid peanuts. I drive myself into work even when I'm really sick, partly because I don't get paid for being off sick but mainly because I don't want anyone to think I'm skiving and that I'm not committed because that will go against me if a contract comes up."

    The journalist goes on to describe at 7.32 the bullying and explains that he feels unable to speak out. Can't afford to lose his job.

    Halfway through 7.32 says:

    "The other problem is the huge number of new journalists working for free on internships. It's incredibly competitive to get a foot in the door, so once you're there, you're desperate not to blow it. I think that makes it even easier for editors to treat you like dirt."

    And then at 7.33:

    "I've not hacked phones although there's someone in every newsroom who can turn around ex-directory numbers or come up with addresses and medical record checks. I've asked colleagues for this myself on the advice of the news editor. But I've seen the pressure people come under to break stories and to curry favour with the editor. There's no resources, no time to do things properly. You're just supposed to pull a rabbit out of a hat. It's hardly a big surprise that shortcuts are taken."

    Is there anything else that you wanted to draw our attention to there?

  • No, except just quickly to add that the increasing casualisation in the industry has really contributed, I think, to the problems that there are now in workplaces because employment is incredibly precarious for many journalists, but they're not freelancers in the traditional sense, they're not working for a variety of outlets and invoicing newspapers with their bills. They're paid on a daily set rate and many casuals work in newsrooms every day, every week, for months on end. Some of them even for years. To all intents and purposes, they are a member of staff except they don't have the same salaries, they don't enjoy the same sick leave or any of the other entitlements. They could be working alongside people who have enhanced holiday or enhanced sick cover, but they don't have those same perks, and they can just be told, "Don't come in tomorrow".

    Some newspapers even, when they get to the 12-month period of service, at the point at which they would accrue rights as workers, newspapers force a two or three-week break on them, an unpaid period of leave before they are allowed to come back and resume their duties as to all intents and purposes a member of staff, but it makes it even harder for those journalists, and this is why it's important to speak out or to challenge anything that an editor says because they don't even have the security of a staff contract.

  • Can I turn to your third statement. This covers two issues: Mr Derek Webb, we'll come on to that, and the News International union, NISA. NISA?

  • Let me ask first about Derek Webb. You'll remember that Mr Webb gave evidence to the Inquiry and you tell us in fact it was on Day 18. You will recall that he was the gentleman who was a former police officer who became a private detective and then was asked to become a member of the NUJ if he wanted to continue working at News of the World.

    Look at paragraph 3 of your statement because I think there's a correction to make there. You explain halfway down:

    "The evidence is that Neville Thurlbeck, the news editor of the Sun, told Mr Webb that two conditions for his subsequent employment by the Sun were that he terminated his private ..." et cetera et cetera."

    Can we correct that. Mr Thurlbeck -- is there a correction you'd like to make?

  • To change it from the News of the World to the Sun, yes.

  • The other way around, actually.

  • Oh, it's been corrected, sorry, in my version. Yes, the other way around.

  • Mr Thurlbeck wasn't the news editor at News of the World. Our understanding is that he was chief reporter, so we make those corrections.

  • I want to make absolutely clear that that wasn't intentional.

    You explain that Mr Webb was absolutely right about that, he did become a member of the National Union of Journalists and you enclose with your statement his application form at MS2.

    I'm going to ask you questions about how one becomes an NUJ member but before I do that, can we look at paragraph 4. You explain that the requirement to join the NUJ is remarkable for two reasons. The first is that the Sun -- I think you mean the News of the World there -- together with every other News International title in the UK refuses to recognise the NUJ or indeed have anything to do with the NUJ, it's set up and funds NISA which shall we say ostensibly represents its staff but is in fact subservient to News International.

    And you say this:

    "This is not merely my view, it reflects a decision of the certification officer of 18 May 2001."

    And you set out the decision of the certification officer, which we're not going to go through, but can you confirm that was a decision in 2001 that NISA was not an independent trade union since it was liable to interference by News International. Can you assist us with whether or not that decision was ever appealed or whether any further application has been made for a certificate of independence?

  • Not to my knowledge, but News International could answer that.

  • We've obviously heard the evidence of those who had the experience of NISA. Is there anything else that you'd like to say about NISA or that particular subject?

  • Just merely to say that a staff association that has been established by an employer as a way of blocking recognition to any independent trade union, an organisation that's financed exclusively by a proprietor, cannot ever provide a genuine independent voice in the workplace, and I think one of the journalists in the testimony earlier also makes it clear that people who work within NISA and who work to negotiate pay rises and things like that, they're nice people, that they've been supportive; however, within the very real parameters of what they can do, they're not someone that people could turn to and expect to represent robustly their ethical issues or issues of bullying in the workplace. There is no perception that they offer that independent voice and genuine representative body.

  • Let me ask you about Mr Webb then. You've enclosed his application form. I think there was some surprise expressed at the time as to how he could have become a member of the National Union of Journalists, given that he was not, I think it's now accepted, a journalist. Look at the form very briefly and see how he describes himself in that. He describes himself as a researcher. Under "About your job" he says he works for News International freelance and is a researcher, describes himself as a freelance researcher.

    Over the page, he then has a proposer and a seconder. Is that all he was required to do? Can you explain this to us: fill in a form, have a proposer and a seconder, and then he would acquire membership of the NUJ?

  • We have a system. Applications come into the union centrally. We have a longstanding system of potential members needing to have a proposer and a seconder, and that's because obviously the NUJ cannot hire a private detective to investigate every potential member and find out whether they're not telling the truth on an application form, there's an element of good faith, but the fact of the proposer and seconder is that they are members in excellent standing within the union.

    What tends to happen in the cases of workplace applications is that the people who propose and second tend to be NUJ members who are more active, who are members of the NUJ chapel committee, for example, and that's how most workplace applications tend into come into the union centrally.

    There's a level of processing that's done at our head office in London for UK applications and then they go out, the application forms are sent to branches, local branches, so that in this case it would have gone to our freelance branch in London, and again the applications are all discussed individually at that meeting of members.

    We suggest to prospective members that they go along to that meeting so that they're physically there to answer any questions that might happen. They're not obliged to and it didn't happen in this case, in this application, but that's another element of the checking process that takes place, but the proposer and the seconder were members in excellent standing.

  • So you don't rely necessarily on being able to check that the person actually does the job they say they're doing. You rely on the fact that a proposer and a seconder of excellent standing within the NUJ have vouched for this person and that's the basis on which this application was granted?

  • Yes. Ordinarily, if it was a freelance -- most freelance applications, prospective journalists are asked to supply evidence of their work. Now in the case of researchers it's obviously not necessary, you don't have the bylined material in the same way as if you were a writer or a different type of journalist. We have many researchers within membership in the NUJ, for example at the BBC. It's perfectly valid criteria of membership within the union.

  • Have you researched the position with the proposer and seconder?

  • I have carried out checks in that regard, yes, and they believed the person to be doing journalistic work.

  • But they clearly didn't know him very well.

  • The proposer had got to know this person to a degree. I think, I believe the work had turned into work of a journalistic nature, not as a private detective.

  • Do you think what Mr Webb was doing was journalistic?

  • I think some of the work that, you know, in terms of -- some of the work is work that journalists would do in the course of their duties.

  • That's not quite the same question, is it?

  • No, I don't believe he was eligible for membership of the NUJ, no. I also find it staggering that an organisation would instruct, as Mr Webb alleges, would instruct somebody who's been a private detective for them for a long period of time to suddenly transform themselves into a journalist and that the way to do that in the eyes of that executive was to gain a membership of the NUJ and to secure one of our press cards, not one of the cards that News International dispenses to its staff. I find the whole thing staggering. Staggering. The conceit of it from an organisation that does not let the independent union for journalists across its threshold.

  • I'm going to ask you about Mr Dacre's proposals for press cards in a moment, but before I do that, let's complete the circle. In what circumstances would an NUJ press card be withdrawn or somehow taken away in some form?

  • I should say at the outset that not all members of the NUJ hold a press card. All members of the union have their union membership card, but it's only -- members have to demonstrate that they're bona fide news gatherers and working in that way in order to then gain the press card. There's a separate application that they make for that. It's not an automatic entitlement or something that we automatically dispense. There is another process --

  • -- to that. And if a member leaves the NUJ, they're obliged to return their press card, if they're a member who has one. If they -- when it comes up for renewal, if they've moved to a different sector of work, for example if they've moved into PR or if they've become an academic lecturer in journalism and they are not actively involved in news gathering any more then they're no longer entitled to a press card as a consequence. Of course if a member was expelled from the NUJ, we would also ask that they return their card and ensure that that takes place.

  • In relation to Mr Webb, was any investigation started with a view to removing his card or --

  • That process had started and Mr Webb resigned from the NUJ.

  • He had a press card, did he?

  • So he's not only a member but a --

  • Yes. And he's been asked to return that card.

  • Mr Dacre came to give evidence recently and proposed a system of press cards. He explained that there were a number of bodies producing press cards and went on to suggest that owners should register their reporters for a centralised industry-run kind of accreditation scheme, if I can put it that way, for kitemark journalists and publishers. He explained that there would be various advantages to this system. Did you hear him give evidence or read a transcript of his evidence.

  • Yes I read the transcript, yes.

  • Do you have any views on the proposal that he put forward?

  • I think it's a ridiculous idea. I don't think it would work in practice. I don't understand the premise behind it. Why would the industry, why would the newspaper owners be in a position to somehow guarantee things that don't happen at the moment as a result of the press card gatekeepers?

    I think this is yet another example of how as an editor, a very high profile influential member of the industry is trying to again pin the blame on individual journalists. They want a system in place that's run by the industry, controlled by the industry and where individual journalists, if something happened, if there was an issue with reporting or example of bad practice, then that journalist's livelihood and card is somehow revoked.

    Where does the blame lie? Again it lies with the ordinary reporter from that perspective. It does absolutely nothing to move us forward from where we are today. And it doesn't tackle at all any of the issues about the culture, the practices and ethics within the press.

    So it's not at all a notion that we would support, and I have seen since the widespread reaction to it from many seasoned journalists and from many academics in the industry is that it's a ridiculous notion, it would never work, and again it doesn't account for the fact that journalists operate in a culture that is imposed upon them from above, from the likes of Mr Dacre and others within the industry, and yet under his model he would have all the power and none of the responsibility for that.

    It's also pretty much akin to the licensing of journalists, which of course the NUJ would absolutely oppose, and would damage press freedom within the UK, which I know is something that hopefully, you know, within the broader Inquiry is something that we all don't want to go down that path, so it's not a practical model and it's not a solution to the problems we're all sharing here in this Inquiry.

  • I understand that the NUJ does have some worked out proposals on the future of press regulation, but having spoken to you beforehand, I think you've made it clear that you would rather submit those proposals in writing to the Chairman rather than spend time now discussing them in any detail, so I'm sure that we'd be very grateful to receive the NUJ's proposals in due course.

    Is that acceptable, sir?

  • That's absolutely right. As I've made clear to everybody, any proposals will be considered and thought about. The determination that I have to find an answer that works for everybody, that is the industry, the journalists and the public, remains absolute.

  • Thank you, Ms Stanistreet. Those are all my questions. Do you have anything that you would like to add?

  • I'd just like to say I'm very grateful for the fact that the evidence of these journalists was allowed to come before the Inquiry. There was a lot of tussling about it and I'm very pleased with the decision you've taken because I think it's really important that in their own words that the Inquiry gets a flavour and the wider public gets an insight into what many journalists are having to face on a day-to-day basis, and it's incredibly regrettable that you don't have a succession of journalists who feel able to come here in person and to be able to tell you in their own words and have their evidence tested, but it's for the very really reasons that I've outlined, it's a real culture of fear.

  • I understand that, Ms Stanistreet. You, of course, will equally understand the impact that the absence of that testing inevitably has upon the weight that I can put on what any of them actually say.

  • But I'm very grateful to you and I'm grateful to you for the work that you've done to take up the difficulty that the Inquiry was clearly learning about surrounding the fact that there were journalists who were anxious to contribute but weren't prepared to come forward and be named, so I'm very grateful to you. Thank you very much.

  • Sir, good afternoon. The next witness is Mr Max Clifford.