Patrice Riemens on Wed, 20 Jul 2011 00:04:48 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Nick Davies' obituary of Sean Hoare (The Guardian)

in Re: management techniques under market stalinism ...

original to:

Sean Hoare knew how destructive the News of the World could be
by Nick Davies

The courageous whistleblower who claimed Andy Coulson knew about phone
hacking had a powerful motive for speaking out

At a time when the reputation of News of the World journalists is at rock
bottom, it needs to be said that the paper's former showbusiness
correspondent Sean Hoare, who died on Monday, was a lovely man.

In the saga of the phone-hacking scandal, he distinguished himself by
being the first former NoW journalist to come out on the record, telling
the New York Times last year that his former friend and editor, Andy
Coulson, had actively encouraged him to hack into voicemail.

That took courage. But he had a particularly powerful motive for speaking.
He knew how destructive the News of the World could be, not just for the
targets of its exposés, but also for the ordinary journalists who worked
there, who got caught up in its remorseless drive for headlines.

Explaining why he had spoken out, he told me: "I want to right a wrong,
lift the lid on it, the whole culture. I know, we all know, that the
hacking and other stuff is endemic. Because there is so much intimidation.
In the newsroom, you have people being fired, breaking down in tears,
hitting the bottle."

He knew this very well, because he was himself a victim of the News of the
World. As a showbusiness reporter, he had lived what he was happy to call
a privileged life. But the reality had ruined his physical health: "I was
paid to go out and take drugs with rock stars ? get drunk with them, take
pills with them, take cocaine with them. It was so competitive. You are
going to go beyond the call of duty. You are going to do things that no
sane man would do. You're in a machine."

While it was happening, he loved it. He came from a working-class
background of solid Arsenal supporters, always voted Labour, defined
himself specifically as a "clause IV" socialist who still believed in
public ownership of the means of production. But, working as a reporter,
he suddenly found himself up to his elbows in drugs and delirium.

He rapidly arrived at the Sun's Bizarre column, then run by Coulson. He
recalled: "There was a system on the Sun. We broke good stories. I had a
good relationship with Andy. He would let me do what I wanted as long as I
brought in a story. The brief was, 'I don't give a fuck'."

He was a born reporter. He could always find stories. And, unlike some of
his nastier tabloid colleagues, he did not play the bully with his
sources. He was naturally a warm, kind man, who could light up a lamp-post
with his talk. From Bizarre, he moved to the Sunday People, under Neil
Wallis, and then to the News of the World, where Andy Coulson had become
deputy editor. And, persistently, he did as he was told and went out on
the road with rock stars, befriending them, bingeing with them, pausing
only to file his copy.

He made no secret of his massive ingestion of drugs. He told me how he
used to start the day with "a rock star's breakfast" ? a line of cocaine
and a Jack Daniels ? usually in the company of a journalist who now
occupies a senior position at the Sun. He reckoned he was using three
grammes of cocaine a day, spending about £1,000 a week. Plus endless
alcohol. Looking back, he could see it had done him enormous damage. But
at the time, as he recalled, most of his colleagues were doing it, too.

"Everyone got overconfident. We thought we could do coke, go to Brown's,
sit in the Red Room with Paula Yates and Michael Hutchence. Everyone got a
bit carried away."

It must have scared the rest of Fleet Street when he started talking ? he
had bought, sold and snorted cocaine with some of the most powerful names
in tabloid journalism. One retains a senior position on the Daily Mirror.
"I last saw him in Little Havana," he recalled, "at three in the morning,
on his hands and knees. He had lost his cocaine wrap. I said to him, 'This
is not really the behaviour we expect of a senior journalist from a great
Labour paper.' He said, 'Have you got any fucking drugs?'"

And the voicemail hacking was all part of the great game. The idea that it
was a secret, or the work of some "rogue reporter", had him rocking in his
chair: "Everyone was doing it. Everybody got a bit carried away with this
power that they had. No one came close to catching us." He would hack
messages and delete them so the competition could not hear them, or hack
messages and swap them with mates on other papers.

In the end, his body would not take it any more. He said he started to
have fits, that his liver was in such a terrible state that a doctor told
him he must be dead. And, as his health collapsed, he was sacked by the
News of the World ? by his old friend Coulson.

When he spoke out about the voicemail hacking, some Conservative MPs were
quick to smear him, spreading tales of his drug use as though that meant
he was dishonest. He was genuinely offended by the lies being told by News
International and always willing to help me and other reporters who were
trying to expose the truth. He was equally offended when Scotland Yard's
former assistant commissioner, John Yates, assigned officers to interview
him, not as a witness but as a suspect. They told him anything he said
could be used against him, and, to his credit, he refused to have anything
to do with them.

His health never recovered. He liked to say that he had stopped drinking,
but he would treat himself to some red wine. He liked to say he didn't
smoke any more, but he would stop for a cigarette on his way home. For
better and worse, he was a Fleet Street man.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact: