As Alexander Lebedev can testify, there are few things more undignified than the sight of middle-aged men brawling.
So Axegrinder was dismayed to see former News of the World editor Phil Hall make the verbal equivalent of a Lebedev-style assault on media commentator Roy Greenslade after being asked what seemed like a fairly reasonable question by him at the Leveson Inquiry seminar yesterday.
Roy Greenslade: “No-one has addressed the business about pressure on the editor, Phil Hall didn’t tell us about how he came to depart from the News of the World. I think it would be instructive if he were able to tell the inquiry how his editorial content was one the major causes of his being required by his proprietor to step down.”
Phil Hall: “Maybe first Roy can tell us how he fixed the Spot the Ball competition when he was editor of the Daily Mirror.”
Greenslade: “I’d like to sell as many books as possible, the full explanation is in my book: Maxwell’s Fall. It is the episode in journalism I absolutely feel terrible about. On behalf of my proprietor Robert Maxwell I fixed a game offering a million pounds to anyone who could spot the ball and ensured that no-one won. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. And now that I’ve told the truth will Phil?”
Hall: “The truth is that the proprietor and chairman of News International thought there was a more suitable editor of the News of the World than myself, it’s as simple as that. They chose Rebekah Wade ahead of me. They made their choices for whatever reasons, they were never explained to me. And it was as simple as that.”
Greenslade reckons there is more to the story than that, as he wrote on his blog this week. He said that Hall got his marching orders in 2000 because he defied Murdoch and published an expose revealing the crimes of Jeffrey Archer – who was then a Harper Collins author on the News Corp payroll.
Axegrinder knows that it as an old News of the World trick to wheel out the spot-the-ball story when confronted with criticism by Greenslade.
Of all the interesting and important stuff going on at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday, it’s also interesting that this exchange was deemed worthy of reporting to Sun readers under the headline: Journo prof – I faked Spot the Ball Competition.