Did Rebekah Brooks’ PR chums invent fake front page stories for her newspapers?

Amid all the Murdoch stuff in the UK newspapers at the weekend was a fascinating piece in the Mail on Sunday claiming that current News International boss Rebekah Brooks used to run fictional press releases from her PR buddies as front page stories in the Sun and the News of the World.

The article, written by a News International ‘insider’, claims:

Scores, if not hundreds, of front-page stories were written by the PR men. They would think up a headline and story and The Sun and News of the World would run it, word for word. Some of them were complete fiction.

Meanwhile, proper stories by proper journalists were buried deep inside the paper. Stories that upset one of Rebekah’s VIP cronies didn’t appear at all. It broke the reporters’ hearts.

Relationships with PR firms such as Matthew Freud’s Freud Communications were so close that if they called the newsdesk with a story, you had to run it. If you told them it wasn’t a story but just a piece of PR fluff, they would phone Rebekah’s office, the reporter would be told off and the story would go in as Freud wanted it.

She sold the soul of The Sun and the News of the World to PR snake-oil merchants.

Now Mrs Brooks is hardly popular with her former staff at the NoW at the moment, many people thinking that owner Rupert Murdoch closed the paper to protect his favourite employee.

But these are serious accusations and it’s interesting that they’re being aired in the Mail on Sunday, a sign that editor in chief Paul Dacre has decided it’s time to turn the dogs on News International, Rebekah Brooks and her PR chums like Freud.

Freud, of course, is married to Rupert’s daughter Elizabeth, who recently sold her production company Shine to News Corporation for a rather generous £400m or so. The Freuds weekend in Oxfordshire with Brooks and her racing trainer husband Charlie, David and Samantha Cameron and Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson (who hasn’t been dragged into the media scandal so far, but give him time).

The article even describes Rupert Murdoch in terms of “there’s no fool like an old fool,” unheard of in Fleet Street.

But PR firms making up stories and using personal influence to get these piles of poo printed is something that surely requires investigation, certainly from trade body the PRCA’s public standards committee (assuming it’s got one, I can’t find any evidence).

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.