In February 2008, the Guardian journalist Nick Davies went on to the Today programme to talk about his book, Flat Earth News, an examination of the “scale and origins of falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the media.” Mischievously, the programme’s producers had put up as Davies’s interlocutor Stuart Kuttner, then managing editor of the News of World and a man whose reputation for ruthlessness went before him.
When Davies began to enumerate the “dark arts”, often criminal in nature, employed by certain tabloid newspapers, Kuttner moved quickly to head off any criticism of the paper he worked for. “If it happens,” he said, “it shouldn’t happen. It happened once at the News of the World. The reporter was fired; he went to prison. The editor resigned.”
The reporter in question was the News of the World’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, who was found guilty of intercepting phone messages left by members of the royal household. The editor was Andy Coulson, who, by the time Davies and Kuttner locked horns on Radio 4, was working as communications director for the then leader of the opposition, David Cameron.