July 15, 2024

A Tenacious Rise to the Top in the Brutal Men’s World of Tabloids

Asked whether she had ever paid the police for information, Ms. Wade, a supremely confident and striking figure with her shock of wild red hair, looked unabashed and unperturbed. “We have paid the police for information in the past,” she declared.

She was, in fact, admitting to breaking the law, which was pointed out to her soon afterward. But Ms. Wade backtracked as fluently as she had come forward, declaring that she could not remember any examples and then proceeding, it seemed, to brush off the whole thing as another cheeky, walking-the-line incident in a career full of them.

Now 43 and known by her new married name, Rebekah Brooks, she has used a winning combination of charm, effrontery, audacity and tenacity to thrive in the brutal, male-dominated world of the British tabloids. She has risen to become chief executive of News International, Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper subsidiary.

Her closeness to Mr. Murdoch, who is said to regard her as a kind of favorite daughter (although he has four actual daughters), has protected her during the recent scandal engulfing the company, even as legislators called on her to resign.

The long-running saga exploded this week as the Murdochs announced they would close The News of the World in the face of public and parliamentary outrage over revelations that the phone of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl murdered in 2002, was hacked by The News of the World after she disappeared but before her body was found, hampering the police investigation and adding to her parents’ distress.

Ms. Brooks was editor of The News of the World at the time; she has condemned the hacking and said she knew nothing about it. She declined a request to be interviewed for this article.

In extraordinary scenes in the House of Commons on Wednesday, legislator after legislator — most of them from the opposition Labour Party — rose and demanded that Ms. Brooks, one of the most powerful figures in the British news media and a woman many have feared until now, should go. Ms. Brooks should “take responsibility and stand down,” said Ed Miliband, the Labour leader.

But Mr. Murdoch issued a ringing endorsement of Ms. Brooks, saying that his company was committed to holding a full investigation of the recent allegations, under Ms. Brooks’s leadership.

Part of his approach is strategic, said the media analyst Clare Enders, founder of Enders Analysis. Ms. Enders suggested that Ms. Brooks functioned as something of a firewall for Mr. Murdoch — a buffer against the allegations. “If she resigns, that’s an admission of culpability,” she said.

And part is emotional. “Rupert Murdoch adores her — he’s just very, very attached to her,” said a person who knows them both socially. “To be frank, the most sensible thing that News Corp. could do would be to dump Rebekah Brooks, but he won’t.”

Ms. Brooks’s rise has been steady, and quick. She began her career in the Murdoch media stable as a secretary at The News of the World, rising to become editor of the paper just 11 years later. In 2003, she became editor of the tabloid Sun, Britain’s best-selling daily newspaper, before being promoted to her current job two years ago.

From early on, she was known for her creative flair in getting articles and her lack of compunction in how she got them. In 1994, she prepared for The News of the World’s interview with James Hewitt, a paramour of Princess Diana, by reserving a hotel suite and hiring a team to “kit it out with secret tape devices in various flowerpots and cupboards,” Piers Morgan, her former boss and now a CNN talk show host, writes in his memoir “The Insider.”

On another occasion in her early days, furious that the paper was about to be scooped by The Sunday Times’s serialization of a biography of Prince Charles, Ms. Brooks disguised herself as a Times cleaning woman and hid for two hours in a bathroom, according to Mr. Morgan. When the presses started rolling, she ran over, grabbed a newly printed copy of The Sunday Times, and brought it back to The News of the World — which proceeded to use the material, verbatim, in its own paper the next day.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=ac114ec67953a83eef1f5ca6fd0dc18d

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