The journalist who exposed Kate Moss's cocaine shame, Craig Charles smoking crack in the back of a taxi and John Prescott's affair has revealed that the secret of his success is a simple one: "being nice".
Daily Mirror reporter Stephen Moyes — who picked up scoop of the year at last month's British Press Awards for the second year in a row — said that while having confidence and "the balls to do things others wouldn't" both play a part, his secret is good manners.
"You meet so many tabloid reporters who for some reason think you have to be hard-nosed and try to turn everyone over at every opportunity," he said.
"There's a time and a place for everything, and I'm not always sure that's the right way forward. Half the time, if you've got a smile on your face and are polite, then people will talk to you no matter what's going on."
Moyes stressed that this year's scoop of the year — that the deputy prime minister had been having an affair with his diary secretary, Tracey Temple — was a team effort.
Temple's distraught boyfriend, Mirror reader Barrie Williams, contacted his paper in a state of shock and persuading him to go public took some time.
"We were all sat there agog. The immediate response would have been to go down there and hammer all the doors, but bizarrely we had to let him come out of his shock. It was a question of building up a bit of trust and persuading him.
When he'd sobered up, as it were, the shock had lessened a bit and he was just more angry. We had to talk him round to going public with a story that he thought would make him the number one laughing stock in the country."
Moyes has been a Mirror reporter for six years in a varied role that meant one day he might be left feeling "rather humble" after reporting on a drought in Afghanistan, and the next day digging around for celebrities' misdemeanours.
"It's the diversity that I quite enjoy, which is why I've always, up to now, shied away from specialist subjects. I like the fact that one day you'll be doing Big Brother and the next day you'll be covering the war in Iraq."
In 2003 he found himself posted to Madrid by his then editor Piers Morgan, working as British journalism's first dedicated David Beckham reporter. Moyes had the task of filing a story every day on Beckham's movements — be it a football match, a shopping trip or a haircut.
The Sun followed suit and sent along Tom Worden, who was also entrusted with the task of "Beckham-watching".
However, problems arose on Moyes'
seven-month posting when local journalists became exasperated with the British tabloids. "The Spanish press is very different to how we work. The Spanish football writers would literally be best mates with all the superstars at Real Madrid, going out drinking and dancing with them — you name it, they would be out doing it — on the understanding that they had 100 per cent total access on football matters and they wouldn't write up all the naughty stuff.
Suddenly you throw in a reporter from the Mirror and The Sun and we are writing up absolutely anything and World War III went off."
Moyes, 33, always wanted to work for the tabloids and still gets excited about buying the morning paper when he knows he has a big scoop. "I have a romantic vision of having a great scoop, running to the newsagents and seeing it on the front page. That's why we do it, I guess. That's a great feeling."
But despite notching up more than his fair share of Mirror splashes, he still cherishes his first front-page story for Skyport, the local newspaper for Heathrow Airport and the surrounding area, headlined: "Glad to be gay at Heathrow by Stephen Moyes".
Moyes got his break at the Mirror by selling the red-top stories from Skyport.
The story that clinched his move was about Prince Harry being first in the queue for a free burger when his flight was delayed: "They rang up the next day — this is after me having sold them a few — and said we can guarantee you four or five shifts a week and see how it goes, so I gave up the job [as editor] and company car and just went for it."
Moyes admits that life as a tabloid reporter has its risks and that he has even received the odd death threat, but adds that he has never consciously put himself in danger. One close shave came last summer when he and photographer James Vellacott were out on assignment tailing an eastern European gang when they feared their cover was about to be blown.
"The tape was running and James said to me, ‘I think I'm going to have to kiss you to pretend that we're lovers.'
Unfortunately we forgot to wipe that from the tape and the deputy editor found that rather amusing when he was going through that a few days later."
Moyes says the most satisfying scoop of his career was "Cocaine Kate", which won British Press Awards scoop of the year last year. "It was eight months of evenings, early hours, frustration, being disillusioned, being cold, being sworn at, being snubbed and being in some frankly horrible places with horrible people, but focusing on what I believed could be the outcome.
"Of course, when that came to fruition it was very, very satisfying. I think she thought it was never going to happen and she went to a lot of extremes to make sure it was never going to happen, which is why it was so difficult."
Asked if he has ever been tempted to take a bribe not to print a story, he jokes that he is still holding out for his 10 per cent share of the reported seven-figure increase in Moss's earnings since the scandal broke in September 2005.
Moyes says an editor's post could be among his plans for the future, but at the moment he's enjoying the reporting side too much and his current focus is on his next big scoop.
"I remember that after the Kate Moss stuff, someone quite important in the industry told me in a rather drunken conversation in the Met Bar that it was a one-off, and I was very lucky. Things like that inspire you to knuckle down and be there next year.
"It's a real privilege. I'm really proud to have won it two years in a row, but obviously I want to be there next year, so there's real pressure."
Double award-winner: Moyes exposed John Prescott's affair and Kate Moss's cocaine-snorting P09_PGW_0413_Pm/dr/dm• 10/4/07 15:16 Page 9