The Murdoch family has long been advising Rebekah Brooks to keep her head down and not court publicity, the ex-tabloid editor revealed when she finally gave evidence in London’s phone-hacking trial.
Brooks gave detailed evidence in a packed courtroom about life inside News International and her dealings with Rupert Murdoch.
She recalled one of the first times the Australian came to her office after she was appointed deputy editor at News of the World.
“I remember him coming into my office and he sat down and said ‘It’s a big challenge at a young age’ – kind advice – ‘You’ve got a long career ahead, take your time, learn on the job’,” Brooks told jurors at the Old Bailey.
“He was particularly keen for me to take a very strict path on publicity.
“He wasn’t very fond of editors … going on radio and spouting forth their opinions. He didn’t like that.”
When Brooks told him Woman’s Own wanted to interview her “his reaction was very grim”.
The 44-year-old said Murdoch’s advice was: “Keep your head down. Don’t court publicity.”
It’s well known Murdoch is fond of the phone. Former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil in the mid-1990s described how he ruled over great distances by “telephone terrorism”.
Brooks, as NotW deputy editor, would sometimes edit the Sunday paper, which meant taking a call from the boss on Saturday night – wherever he was.
“He would ask ‘What’s going on?’, that was always his opening gambit, and it was up to you to tell him what was going on,” Brooks said on Thursday.
“He was obsessed by news, even if there was a breaking story coming out that didn’t feature heavily in your paper.”
Brooks also revealed the relationship between Britain’s New Labour and the Murdoch empire began in mid-1995 when Tony Blair – then in opposition – went to a News Corp conference in Australia.
Defence lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw stressed Brooks wasn’t on trial for being a tabloid editor.
“Neither is she on trial for having worked for Rupert Murdoch’s company or for having worked her way up, literally from the bottom, through that organisation,” he said.
The daughter of a gardener and personal assistant told Court 12 she’d decided to be a writer aged eight.
Brooks “swept the floors and made the tea” at the local newspaper and landed her first full-time job in 1988 when she was 20.
She joined News of the World’s Sunday magazine in 1989 and in 1992 moved to the paper’s features department becoming deputy features editor in 1994.
A year later she became the paper’s acting deputy editor aged just 27, then went on to be deputy at rival sister daily The Sun in 1998 before being named NotW editor out of the blue in 2000.
Brooks was found not guilty of one charge on Thursday relating to payment for a picture of Prince William in a bikini.
But she remains on trial for phone hacking, perverting the course of justice and bribery of public officials – charges she denies.
It was revealed on Wednesday that in 2011, after Mr Blair’s time as prime minister, he offered to act as an “unofficial adviser” to Brooks just days before she was arrested.
Brooks informed James Murdoch of the hour-long conversation with the former PM in an email and his reply echoed his father’s “head down” advice 15 years prior.
“What are you doing on email?” he wrote back.