News of the World editor Colin Myler has defended his newspaper’s decision to publish the Max Mosley ‘orgy’ story and a video of the motorsport boss’s sex session with five women.
Giving evidence in parliament this morning, Myler told the Commons culture, media and sport select committee: “We are who we are and I make no apologies for publishing that story.”
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He confirmed that the cost of publishing the front-page splash on 30 March last year was close to £1m. The paper lost a high court privacy action last summer and paid £60,000 in damages to the FIA chairman and about £900,000 in legal costs.
Mosley has since issued a writ against the News of the World for libel – and Myler was unable to answer a number of the MPs’ questions today because of this.
“To go to court and have a trial was surprising,” Myler said of the privacy action.
“Mr Mosley made, I think, quite a case that he never sought publicity. He was, he believed, a private person. I disagree with that fundamentally.”
Asked about his motivation for publishing the story, Myler replied: “It was a very good story. You only have to look at the manner in which it was followed up.”
He dismissed suggestions that the scoop provided a major commercial boost to the News of the World through increased sales, saying: “Rarely in these situations are there any commercial advantages, despite what many people think.”
And he disagreed with Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre and Daily Express editor Peter Hill – who both told the panel in earlier sessions that they would not have broken the story in a “family paper”.
Asked if he considered the News of the World to be a family paper, Myler replied: “Yes, I do. I don’t agree that it was an unsuitable story for a family newspaper, no I don’t.
“I think everybody understands what the News of the World is about. Some people might sneer but we are who we are and I make no apologies for publishing that story.”
In evidence to the committee in March, Mosley described the News of the World as “purveyors of soft porn” and described the tabloid newspaper trade as a whole as “disgusting”.
But Myler today defended the News of the World’s record – pointing to the work of investigative journalist Mazher Mahmood, who he said had helped convict and jail hundreds of criminals.
“One of the misconceptions about the News of the World is we are a scurrilous newspaper and you have to wash your hands after you read it,” Myler told MPs.
“The truth is that Mazher Mahmood is probably one of the most professional newspaper journalists in the world.
“This is a man that puts himself in great danger and does so with a professional aplomb that any media organisation would be proud to be associated with.”
Myler said it was right that editors should resign if they were found to have made serious mistakes.
“You stand and fall by your judgement,” he said. “If you make a bad call you either go or you’re fired. That is what has happened in my experience.
“I think we need a little bit of transparency and honesty here. People who fall on their swords are few and far between. Editors do and have. Some ministers haven’t when they should have done.”