By Dominic Ponsford
People journalists were shocked by the abrupt sacking of veteran staffer David Brown, following a newsroom spying row.
Brown was sacked on Wednesday last week after paying for stories taken by Daily Mirror reporter Paul Gallagher from his paper’s "held queue", which contains stories that have been spiked, but still might end up in the paper.
Gallagher was also sacked following a management inquiry.
Bosses appear to have viewed the matter as a straightforward case of gross misconduct. However, editorial insider believe that in the murky world of tabloid buy-ups, the conduct of Brown in particular, who had 11 years’ service at the paper, was not that unusual and did not necessarily warrant a sacking.
Gallagher, 26, was nearing the end of a year-long stint on the Mirror’s prestigious graduate training scheme when he began selling stories to the sister title.
It is believed that Gallagher accessed stories which hadn’t been used from the held queue on the editorial computer system, and offered them to Brown.
It is thought this happened with eight or nine stories — for which Brown paid tip-off fees of £50 to £100 each to a contact of Gallagher.
According to one source, Brown did not know that the stories had come from the Mirror’s held queue — at least at the beginning.
One Trinity Mirror insider said: "It’s not unusual for a journalist to get stories from other journalists, often they are your best contacts."
It is not unknown for tabloid journalists to pay good contacts for stories which they have played no part in "to keep them on-side". And according to one source, it may be that Brown believed this was happening in this case.
An insider said: "A lot of people thought that Dave would have to admit that he’d done something wrong, but didn’t think he’d get the sack. That’s the feeling across the whole newsroom, that he has been very unfortunate.
"Brown had a completely unblemished record. There are people around in journalism who do pay dodgy contacts, but Dave just isn’t one of them."
One well-placed source said that the stories in question had been in the Daily Mirror’s held queue for two or three weeks — after that length of time, they were unlikely to have been used.
Brown is understood to be considering whether or not to take Trinity Mirror to an industrial tribunal. The company sacked him after going through a full disciplinary procedure.
He declined to comment on the circumstances of his dismissal, but said: "I’d like very much to thank my colleagues at The People for their support and wish them all the best."