Leveson Inquiry: The editors' views

UK newspaper editors have been giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics. Here we look at their stances on some of the key topics.

How the editors' evidence compares

Editor On researching stories On media regulation Key quote

Source: Oral and written evidence to the Leveson inquiry

Dominic Mohan

Dominic Mohan

The Sun

  • Sources: Responsibility for checking sources lies with reporter. Often asks where information has come from and if source has good track record.
  • Payment of sources: New system for paying sources in cash introduced in September 2011 involving four authorisation signatures. Never knowingly paid police, officials or mobile phone companies.
  • Private investigators: Used in the past; but not aware of use during his editorship. Admits use of "search agents" to obtain ex-directory numbers and electoral role details, among other information.
  • Phone hacking: Not specifically asked. But asked about comments he made at 2002 awards ceremony thanking Vodafone for "their lax phone security".
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Code written into staff contracts and taken very seriously.
  • Press Complaints Commission (PCC): An effective mediator but needs to be toughened up.
  • Regulation: Combination of an over-regulated press with an unregulated internet is very worrying.

"An adjudication upheld [by the PCC] is seen as source of great shame, certainly by me and I'm sure also by other editors. A sensible mediation arm [for the PCC] would be useful."

Read his full evidence

Sun is a force for good - editor

Lionel Barber

Lionel Barber

Financial Times

  • Sources: Minimum of two primary sources to stand up story.
  • Payment of sources: Journalists entertain sources or pay expenses to build relationships but no payment for information.
  • Private investigators: Not used.
  • Phone hacking: Know of no instances of phone hacking or blagging for information at FT.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Code incorporated into paper's own code of conduct, which is stricter. Severe penalties for breaches, including dismissal.
  • PCC: Does some very important, valuable work. But lost credibility on handling of phone-hacking scandal.
  • Regulation: New, independent press regulator needed, which is robust, credible and worthy of joining. Should impose fines for serious breaches, force newspapers to publish admissions of errors prominently and have powers of investigation.

"I sometimes think about [sourcing] in terms of walking up a mountain. If you go on a single source, you get up to the top of the mountain and you have the most glorious view. You have a wonderful scoop the next morning. But then look down the other side of the mountain - that's the risk."

Read his full evidence

FT's code 'a model' for industry

Chris Blackhurst

Chris Blackhurst

The Independent

  • Sources: Cannot recall instance during editorship when needed to ask questions about source of story; usually evident from the story itself. Important for editor to be aware of sources and method by which information obtained.
  • Payment of sources: Know of no instances of payments paid or received for information from police, officials, phone companies or others. May pay for tip-offs for diary page, only if story stands up independently.
  • Private investigators: Not used but does not rule out their use on story of paramount public interest.
  • Phone hacking: Not form of journalism he, newspaper or company wants to be part of.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Offers good indication of correct ethical standards but also matter of common sense.
  • PCC: Has become tarnished in public's eyes and industry now recognises need for substantial reform.
  • Regulation: Compliance with any new code of conduct should be enshrined in journalist's contract. Failure to comply should lead to disciplinary measures, including dismissal. Also advocates fining newspapers.

"We all poke fun at slightly anachronistic organisations like the Jockey Club. The Jockey Club has a way of dealing with jockeys. The Law Society has a way of dealing with solicitors. If you're a hospital manager and you suspect negligence, you go to the GMC and they look into it and they might move against a doctor. There is nothing in our industry for that."

Read his full evidence

Tony Gallagher

Tony Gallagher

Daily Telegraph

  • Sources: Extent to which reporter questioned on source depends on nature of story, source and seniority of journalist.
  • Payment of sources: Generally do not pay large sums for stories but not opposed to purchasing information in right circumstances. Regularly pay small amounts for research or external content such as book serialisations and also pay for tip-offs. Journalists routinely entertain contacts but no payments to police, phone companies or officials.
  • Private investigators: Not aware of anyone at paper using or paying a private investigator to source story. Do use search agencies to help find contact details.
  • Phone hacking: Not specifically asked.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Touchstone for journalistic professionalism and is taken very seriously.
  • PCC: Very healthy relationship with the PCC. If PCC asks paper not to publish story it tends to abide by it. But, currently not fit for purpose.
  • Regulation: Self-regulatory body to replace PCC needs to have investigative arm and low-cost arbitration body to settle complaints. Prefer to see suspension over fines as reprimand.

"I think one of the difficulties of the PCC is that it stands condemned for things it was never able to do. I think it was the Lord Chief Justice who said in his speech in October to criticise the PCC for powers it doesn't have is like criticising a judge for passing a lenient sentence when he doesn't have those powers."

Read his full evidence

Peter Wright

Peter Wright

Mail on Sunday

  • Sources: Individual reporters make initial judgement. If story likely to be challenged legally or by PCC then journalist must reveal source to editor if asked.
  • Payment of sources: In limited circumstances. Checklist for departmental heads to fill in before authorisation. In 2011, highest payment for major interview was about £50,000. Paper has never paid police officer but has paid members of armed forces and other officials.
  • Private investigators: Mail on Sunday does not use term private investigator but has previously used "inquiry agents". He says inquiry agents were used without his knowledge and were used to locate people but not to source stories. Use of inquiry agents now banned. Now use subscription "tracing services".
  • Phone hacking: No evidence phone hacking has ever occurred.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: All journalists adhere to letter and spirit of code.
  • PCC: One of attractions to us and complainants is it's a cheaper and quicker way of achieving a result than going through the courts.
  • Regulation: Replacement for PCC needs standards and compliance arm that could call in editors or newspapers executives to give evidence. Could then issue reports and, if needed, sanctions. Also favours arbitration system as alternative to expensive and time-consuming litigation.

"The PCC did ask News International whether it [phone hacking] went beyond Clive Goodman [News of the World royal correspondent]; they assured the PCC it didn't; we [the PCC - Wright was appointed as a commissioner in 2008] didn't have a proper means of testing whether there was any substance to that assurance."

Read his full evidence

Mail on Sunday defends use of private investigator

Hugh Whittow

Hugh Whittow

Daily Express

  • Sources: Always has awareness of how story is sourced.
  • Payment of sources: Must be recorded on payment books; cash payments banned. News editor and cost controller decide how much to pay source of information used. No knowledge of payments to police informants, public officials or mobile phone companies.
  • Private investigators: No knowledge of private investigator use at Express. Recently discovered some reporters use search agencies.
  • Phone hacking: Discuss practices and methods with heads of departments and they say no problems with stories.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Not signed up to PCC code any more but does abide by its rules.
  • PCC: Body should have intervened when his paper and others were running stories about the McCanns. Express withdrew from PCC for this reason.
  • Regulation: Should not be state or government regulation of press. Have been rogue incidents but has mainly worked well. Does need body with more power.

"The one thing that does really concern me is the internet. It's not part of my life, to tell you the truth. I'm aware it's there, but I know that younger people are using it all the time and so much flashes around the internet. How you'll be able to control that, I just do not know."

Read his full evidence

Dawn Neesom

Dawn Neesom

Daily Star

  • Sources: In majority of cases sources are obvious. If unclear, reporter is asked about it.
  • Payment of sources: Must be recorded on payment books; cash payments banned. Celebrities and PRs occasionally paid for exclusive showbusiness stories. Smaller payments made for lesser stories and always recorded. Never paid police, officials or mobile phone companies.
  • Private investigators: Not used.
  • Phone hacking: Not asked.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: No longer signed up to PCC code but does abide by its rules. Enforced by management not being very happy with journalists if they mess up.
  • PCC: Feels PCC has lost its way somewhat.
  • Regulation: Self-regulation can work and Leveson Inquiry is a positive start towards that.

"My vision for the newspaper as a whole is it's a very difficult time for the entire industry. I want to see the paper improve. I think the Leveson Inquiry is a brilliant opportunity for us to move on as a group, as an industry, and improve. Mistakes have been made, dreadful mistakes have been made. I love the industry, I'm very proud to call myself a journalist and I really want to move on and make things right and make it work together."

Read her full evidence

Editor 'sorry' for McCann distress

Richard Wallace

Richard Wallace

Daily Mirror

  • Sources: Sometimes publish using single source. Will not publish story if doubts over provenance and journalist refuses to disclose sources.
  • Payment of sources: Not aware of Daily Mirror journalists paying police for stories but on occasion paid public sector workers, such as prison staff, for information. Mirror rarely makes cash payments to sources any more.
  • Private investigators: On occasion private investigators have been used. In 2011 was instructed to stop use by Mirror Group managing director.
  • Phone hacking: No knowledge of phone hacking under his editorship but may have been hidden from him if taken place previously.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: High expectancy of professionalism and part of being professional journalist is to understand and know code.
  • PCC: System of self-regulation operates well. It is responsive and complaints mechanism is fast and effective.
  • Regulation: Supports standards panel or ombudsman. New body should be able to call editors to account for their actions but having audit trail on every story not practical.

"In the world of the internet there is just a lot of noise and what the consumers are seeking and business is seeking is some kind of order. I think that legitimate bloggers, legitimate internet news providers would welcome the opportunity to join such a (new regulation) body, to be kite-marked or branded in some kind of way, because it would have a direct effect on their businesses."

Read his full evidence

Hack 'possibly' behind Sven scoop

Tina Weaver

Tina Weaver

Sunday Mirror

  • Sources: Not always aware of sources because of straightforward nature of majority of stories. Central stories with legal risk will be discussed. Stories often rejected.
  • Payment of sources: No knowledge of payments to police, officials or mobile phone companies.
  • Private investigators: Used "search agents" - not regarded as private investigators - since 2005. No specific policy on use of private investigators before ban of their use in 2011.
  • Phone hacking: Believes phone hacking did not take place but cannot guarantee it did not.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Journalists strive to comply with PCC code.
  • PCC: Current watchdog is toothless and does not have power it needs.
  • Regulation: Agrees with idea of "three-column structure" body, including a mediation arm, a regulatory arm and an arbitration arm. Also agrees with compulsory membership and financial penalties against publishers who consistently breach code.

"I'm very risk averse and very cautious, but there will be times when, even though you've completed checks and you've tried to verify the stories to the best of your ability, and you've taken a legal view on it, that a story just doesn't feel right, something about it troubles you. It's just instinctive... There have been a few occasions when I haven't trusted my instincts and I've put something in the paper and I've regretted it."

Read her full evidence

Lloyd Embley

Lloyd Embley

The People

  • Sources: Single-source stories "quite common". Better to have more than one source but stories where the subject is the source only need one. Used single source in story headlined Marryoke suggesting singer Charlotte Church drunkenly proposed to boyfriend while singing karaoke. It turned out to be false.
  • Payment of sources: Does not specifically advertise for "kiss and tell" stories but does ask generally for stories and say it is prepared to pay for them. Spends more on photographs than text. Turns down up to five sets of pictures each week on grounds of intrusion.
  • Private investigators: Not used since he took charge in 2007.
  • Phone hacking: Does not believe phone hacking has taken place.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Strong track record of compliance with code.
  • PCC: Needs more teeth.
  • Regulation: Need contractual obligation for publishers to join and fines system. Representation of current editorial system.

"There needs to be some kind of fines system. Some kind of contract, clearly, all publishers have to be involved. What we have at the moment obviously doesn't stand up to a great deal of scrutiny because we have one publisher who is out of it."

Read his evidence in full

James Harding

James Harding

The Times

  • Sources: Very, very rarely prints on one source. Some where pivotal to story. Don't close door if just one, interrogate motives of that person.
  • Payment of sources: Does not pay sources for stories.
  • Private investigators: Not used.
  • Phone hacking: Not specifically asked.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Code widely circulated and respected.
  • PCC: Self-regulation needs to be replaced with an independent regulator.
  • Regulation: Uneasy about new regulator enacted by Parliament as could be amended by future governments who did not like press

"The concern would be over time... in the event that politicians were unhappy with the press they were getting, they would say, "You know what, we should just tighten one thing up, and the thing we should tighten up is the oversight of standards. It will be easy to do; we'll just make an amendment to the Leveson Act."

Read his evidence in full

Times editorial on Leveson

John Witherow

John Witherow

Sunday Times

  • Sources: Generally try to get more than one.
  • Payment of sources: For exclusives in exceptional circumstances, to charity if possible.
  • Private investigators: Used two individuals well-known to reporters. Becoming less frequently used.
  • Phone hacking: Never used - illegal and unethical.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Journalists bound by contract to abide by PCC code.
  • PCC: Accept their decisions as matter of policy. Very few complaints taken against paper.
  • Regulation: Serious doubts about statutory regulatory body set up by parliament. Should be financial penalty for not being involved in new system.

"If Britain were to move towards some sort of statutory body, it would send a message worldwide that we were, however much well-intentioned it was, that we were prepared to take a tougher line with the media."

See his evidence in full

Alan Rusbridger

Alan Rusbridger

The Guardian

  • Sources: Would use single source if perfectly placed to know information. Best to try for corroboration.
  • Payment of sources: Practices covered by internal code of practice. Pay small "tip fees".
  • Private investigators: Not used, any use would need editor's approval
  • Phone hacking: Not specifically asked
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Journalists follow PCC code and own detailed Guardian editorial code of conduct since 2002.
  • PCC: Investigation into hacking was a "whitewash". He resigned from code committee in November 2009.
  • Regulation: Need Press Standards and Mediations Commission with an adjudication wing. "Wouldn't be against the use of statute" if a regulator could enforce its powers to deal with libel complaints.

"The blunt truth about our industry is that we have been under regulated and over legislated. If we can get a better balance of better legislation and better regulation as a result of it (the Leveson Inquiry) then that to my mind is a good thing."

Read his evidence in full

Paul Dacre

Paul Dacre

Daily Mail

  • Sources: Each reporter makes an initial judgment on the quality of the information. Heads of department may make other investigations to satisfy themselves it is suitable for publication.
  • Payment of sources: No payments made to police officers. Members of the public paid for tips, information, pictures or the right to sell their story. In some cases, payments are made in cash with no receipt to protect the identity of confidential sources. Public officials may be paid for stories.
  • Private investigators: Admitted he knew they were used but was not aware to what extent. Said using private detectives to access information used to be commonplace in the industry but he had acted "vigorously" to stamp out such behaviour when it became apparent it was illegal
  • Phone hacking: Knows of no cases of phone hacking and no stories that resulted from it.
  • Editors' Code of Practice: Adherence to both the letter and spirit of the code is mandatory and all journalists are contractually obliged to comply with it.
  • PCC: A new self-regulatory body should stand alongside the PCC to deal with press standards.
  • Regulation: Believes an efficient process of self-regulation protects people not generally in the public life much better than a statutory one.

"I do believe there is an opportunity to build on the existing haphazard press card system. There are 17 bodies at the moment providing these cards. By transforming it into an essential kitemark for ethical and proper journalism, the key would be to make the cards available only to members of print newsgathering organisations

or magazines who have signed up to the new body and its code."

Read his evidence in full

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