Profile: Rebekah Brooks

Media luminary who had meteoric rise to the top is brought down by phone-hacking scandal at company she headed.

Brooks’ resignation as chief executive of News International followed a phone-hacking scandal [Reuters]

Rebekah Brooks, who has resigned as chief executive of News International, had a meteoric rise to the top of tabloid journalism in the UK under the patronage of her mentor, Rupert Murdoch.

Brooks, 43, has worked for Murdoch for more than half her life, landing herself the top job as editor of the News of the World, now closed after the phone-hacking scandal, aged just 31 in 2000.

In 2003, she became the first woman to edit The Sun, one of three newspapers published by News International, a subdiary of the US-based News Corporation headed by Murdoch. She was appointed chief executive of News International in 2009.

Brooks won the admiration of Murdoch who once spoke of her as a “great campaigning editor who has worked her way through the company with an energy and enthusiasm that reflects true passion for newspapers and an understanding of the crucial contribution that independent journalism makes to society”.

Early life

Born on May 27 1968, Rebekah Wade – as she was known then – grew up in the North West English county of Cheshire, before heading off to Paris for a stint studying at the Sorbonne.

It is not clear whether Brooks returned back to the UK with a degree.

Upon her return at the age of 20, she took up a job as a secretary for the short-lived Post newspaper.

When the Post folded Brooks moved to the News of the World in 1989 as a secretary, before working as a features writer for its Sunday magazine.

In 1998 she was appointed deputy editor of the Sun newspaper, where she had even tried to persuade the then editor, David Yelland, to scrap the paper’s Page Three Girls section. It features titillating pictures of scantily dressed young women.

Murdoch, left, has been supportive of Brooks [EPA]

In 2000 she returned to the News of the World as its editor, and at the time she was the youngest editor of a national paper.

Former employees describe her as “one of the lads” who fitted into the macho culture of the tabloids by swearing in the newsroom and drinking in the pub with colleagues – while making it very clear who was boss.

She was noted for launching a controversial name-and-shame campaign against convicted child sex offenders.

But the campaign was blamed for creating a vigilante behaviour by some members of the public who took the law into their own hands.

In 2003 she returned to the Sun as its editor. A few months later she was to appear before the House of Commons committee on culture, media and sport, and what she said there was to have implications for the rest of time as an employee of News International.

Under oath Brooks admitted police officers had been paid for information in the past, only to confirm later she had been talking in general terms.

Murdoch emissary

After she was appointed News International chief executive, Brooks became an emissary to the Murdoch family in the UK, reporting to Murdoch’s son James, a senior executive with the same company.

Along with her experience of tabloid journalism, Brooks also possessed a strong contact book of powerful celebrities and politicians from both the Labour and Conservative parties.

Brooks and her second husband Charlie, a racehorse trainer, live very close to the home of David Cameron, the prime minister, in Oxfordshire. She has been known to meet the Camerons at least once over Christmas, and both couples see each other at weekends.

Brooks has been known to say she has no need to go to Downing Street to see Cameron, since she sees him so frequently socially.

But the phone hacking scandal has destroyed her reputation – along with the credibility a of News International.

Calls for her resignation were made as soon as the scandal started, and some see the decision to shut down the News of the World as a tactical move by Rupert Murdoch to protect Brooks.  

British police arrested Brooks on July 17.

A statement released on her behalf said she “voluntarily attended a London police station to assist with their ongoing investigation”.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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