Murdoch favourite Brooks returns to UK job in remarkable comeback
LONDON – Rebekah Brooks, the Rupert Murdoch protegee cleared last year of orchestrating a criminal campaign that damaged the British establishment, will return to her old job running the tycoon’s British newspapers next week in a stunning comeback.
Brooks, who worked her way up from the lowest rung on a newsroom ladder to become one of the most influential people in Britain, will resume oversight of the Sun and The Times of London papers on Monday following a high-profile fall from grace four years ago.
With sales at the brash Sun tabloid in decline and a weak online presence, Brooks is being brought back to breathe new life into the group.
She will be joined by Tony Gallagher as Sun Editor in Chief – a respected journalist and a key figure in the success of MailOnline, one of the most popular websites in the world.
“I am delighted to return to News UK,” said Brooks, who was dubbed by some as Murdoch’s “fifth daughter”. “It is a privilege to be back amongst the most talented journalists and executives in the business.”
Her return was condemned by critics of the company who questioned Murdoch’s judgement in bringing back one of Britain’s most vilified journalists who was once depicted as a witch on the front page of a news magazine over her role in a phone hacking scandal.
Chris Bryant, an opposition lawmaker who has been an arch opponent of News Corp’s aggressive tactics, said the 84-year-old Murdoch was “sticking two fingers” up to the British public by reappointing Brooks.
The 47-year-old quit in 2011 after the News of the World tabloid she had once edited admitted hacking into thousands of phones to generate stories, including the phone of a murdered schoolgirl.
The admission sparked an uproar that rocked Murdoch’s media empire, forcing the closure of the 168-year-old tabloid and a televised questioning in parliament of the Australian-born tycoon and his son James, both of whom apologised.
The case cost the firm millions of pounds while a year-long public inquiry also exposed the close ties between senior News Corp executives including Brooks, the police and leading politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron.
As the scandal engulfed his company and lawmakers who once sought his blessing lined up to criticise his firm, Murdoch showed his loyalty to Brooks by tipping her, its chief executive, as his main concern.
“This one,” he said, when asked for his top priority.
Brooks was found not guilty of conspiring to hack into phones, bribing public officials for stories and perverting the course of justice following an eight-month trial which itself became front-page news.
As part of her defence, Brooks explained that she had had to work her way up through aggressive, male-dominated newsrooms and often felt out of her depth as she was quickly promoted.
Back in her old job, she will have to tackle the slide in sales of the Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper and work with Gallagher, currently deputy editor at the Daily Mail and a former Telegraph newspaper editor, to build a stronger digital presence.
Steven Barnett, professor of communications at the University of Westminster, said Brooks’ return would be awkward for politicians who had previously acknowledged they had become too close to her when she was at the height of her powers.
“It’s another reason for questioning the judgment of Murdoch himself, because he must surely appreciate the political embarrassment caused at the time by her and those close to her,” he said. -Reuters