We're not priests': Why NoW broke off record code

Gibson’s attempt to strike a deal to save Palios’ job has now backfired

“Journalists are not Catholic priests” according to the News of the World which has admitted FA spokesman Colin Gibson’s damning offer to strike a deal over the Faria Alam affair was off-the-record.

The NoW revealed on Sunday that Gibson had offered “chapter and verse” on Sven Goran Eriksson’s affair with FA secretary Alam if it agreed to keep FA chief executive Mark Palios out of the story. Palios also had an affair with Alam.

The news of communications director Gibson’s attempted deal forced Palios to resign and prompted Gibson to tender his resignation.

The NoW admitted to Press Gazette this week that Gibson said he was speaking off-the-record when he offered the deal. But the paper decided the public interest in knowing about the FA’s “shabby plot” was too great.

A News of the World executive said: “There were several conversations with Colin Gibson about the material that we had. At one point, and absolutely out-of-the-blue, he said he wanted to go off the record.

“To our complete astonishment the FA then invited us to join them in a seedy little plot to stitch-up Sven and the secretary – an amazing betrayal.”

“The News of the World already had the substantive story of the affair between Sven and Faria Alam and the liaison between the same woman and Mark Palios. We had a great deal of material including emails. We had to consider the basis on which this extraordinary offer had been made.

“No journalist readily breaches a confidence offered in good faith.

Indeed, many of our stories come in on that basis and we are happy to work in that way.

“But, put simply, our view is that journalists are not Catholic priests hearing confessions. To have gone along with the FA’s unsavoury proposition and so misled the readers as to the full story would have been unethical and a dereliction of duty.

” Further, it would have been wrong and deeply inappropriate to have joined the FA in the shabby arrangement they tried to engineer to stab the England coach in the back to shield their chief executive.

“The FA’s subsequent claim that the deal offer had come from the News of the World is both risible and demonstrably false.”

A NoW insider said: “This was good old-fashioned News of the World journalism.

Where we lead the others follow – for 17 days so far.”

Colin Gibson declined to comment to Press Gazette.


Last August, Independent political correspondent Paul Waugh caused a row when he reported “background” comments from the prime minister’s spokesman Tom Kelly. Kelly described deceased weapons inspector David Kelly as a “Walter Mitty” style character. Kelly claimed that his comments were in private background conversation.

Waugh, who is now Whitehall editor of the Evening Standard, said Kelly had not made his position “crystal clear”.

By Dominic Ponsford

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