Leveson Inquiry: Heat editor says exposes can be in public interest

A recent piece on celebrity "wobbly bits" was "very empowering", says Lucie Cave of Heat magazine

A celebrity magazine editor has said there can be a public interest in exposing hypocritical behaviour by stars who purport to be role models.

Heat editor Lucie Cave gave the hypothetical example of a star "who portrayed themselves as a real family person" but was having an affair.

Hello! editor Rosie Nixon and Lisa Byrne of OK! also appeared at the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics.

Regional newspaper editors are giving evidence at the London hearing.

During their evidence on the difficulty of preventing inaccurate or libellous reports from remaining on other internet sites, inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson indicated he would call search engine representatives as witnesses.

In her evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice, Ms Cave accepted there was "a great difference" between public interest and things that were interesting to the public.

But she said there could be a public interest argument when a celebrity role model did something to contradict the way they portrayed themselves.

'Open season'

Ms Cave gave the example of "a celebrity who portrayed themselves as a real family person... earned money from having photoshoots with their children, and then they were found out to be having an extramarital affair."

For two hours he was a senior judge, with considerable experience, on the edge of his comfort zone.

Lord Justice Leveson is not the sort of character to ask, "Who are the Beatles?" as a colleague is alleged to have done in the Sixties.

But rather, like one of his barristers who reads the Economist but never bought the News of the World, the inquiry chairman was happy to tell the court that Heat magazine was "a very different sort of journal to my normal".

Undeterred, a copy sat open on his desk featuring a picture of David Beckham's tattooed torso and a letter complaining about a photo of Katie Price which had apparently made her look like a meerkat.

The testimony was devoted to celebrating these publications and acknowledging past mistakes. OK!'s editor said of her magazine: "It's my baby. I love it so much."

She said that just because a celebrity was paid for a story, such as coverage of their wedding, it did not mean it should be "open season" on their private life.

The editors were asked about evidence from singer Charlotte Church, who said she had sold images of her children to limit harassment from photographers.

Ms Nixon said: "The sad truth is that there almost can be a sort of bounty on the head of that child for the first photos - they can make a paparazzo a lot of money."

But she said Hello! liked to view a whole set of pictures to see if there had been any harassment, in which case they would not run the photos.

Ms Byrne said Church sold her photos because "she knew she would be protected... would have approval over pictures and the interview, and it would look beautiful".

The trio cautiously welcomed the idea of a register of celebrities who wished to remain private, possibly held by the Press Complaints Commission, with Ms Cave saying it would be "very useful".

But Ms Byrne warned: "Every celebrity might say, 'no, I don't want any pictures of my family ever again'. Then it could cause a problem."

Meanwhile, at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron told the Commons he would be "delighted" to appear before the inquiry if requested.

'Not tarnished'

He added: "I am sure other politicians will have exactly the same view and I will answer any questions."

Mr Cameron set up the inquiry last July amid new revelations of phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World (NoW).

Why Hello! magazine didn't use pictures of royal couple on a beach

Regional editors told Wednesday's hearing about the effects of the scandal on the regional press.

Maria McGeoghan, of the Manchester Evening News, said there had been a backlash.

"I have lost count of the times I've been asked how to hack a phone or what the going rate for paying police is."

All eight who appeared said they were unaware of phone hacking ever having taken place on their publications.

In a witness statement, the Scotsman's John McLellan said the regional press "should not be tarnished by recent scandals involving newspapers with an entirely different agenda".

Asked about subterfuge, the Belfast Telegraph's Mike Gilson said he might approve it in the public interest. Mr McLellan, Jonathan Russell, of the Glasgow-based Herald, the Yorkshire Post's Peter Charlton and Noel Doran of the Irish News said they would not rule it out.

'Bad for democracy'

However, the Ipswich Evening Star's Nigel Pickover said there was "always another way".

The editors expressed concern at Lord Justice Leveson's suggestion corrections might be given similar prominence to the original report.

Mr Russell said they ought to be "proportionate" to the level of inaccuracy. The South Wales Evening Post's Spencer Feeney said his paper grouped all corrections on page three - a more prominent position than most of the original stories.

When asked about off-the-record briefings with police, the editors lamented the number of press officers employed by public bodies to "mould" coverage and prevent access to important sources.

"It's bad for democracy," said Mr Gilson.

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