I can never be sure whether any of the stories I worked on were expedited by the headlining practise of hacking. What I can be sure of is that a number of leads that had reached a dead end, had all of a sudden endless avenues after a hack's surreptitious chat with news desk elders. It is amazing what you can learn by eavesdropping on a phone call of a hack, rather than hacking a phone of a Jude Law.
When asked what he thought of western civilisation, the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi replied that 'I think it would be a great idea'. The verdicts handed down from the phone hacking trial together with the information contained during the eight months at the Old Bailey suggest pretty much the same thing. We need a free and fearless press because we certainly don't appear to have one now.
Now the hacking trial verdicts have confirmed that the country's biggest newspaper company suffered a catastrophic collapse in standards, the question must be: has Rupert Murdoch done what is necessary to ensure it won't happen again? And the answer is no, he has not. In fact Murdoch has done the reverse. He has joined a conspiracy with other press bosses to prevent the changes that were demanded by the Leveson Inquiry - changes endorsed by all parties in Parliament, by victims of press abuse and by the public.
This trial was the eye of a perfect storm in that was a very high-profile case and a much more far-reaching prosecution in terms of punishment and implication than we saw in 2006... Whether or not the law around phone hacking is changed or new offences created will probably depend on the public reaction to Coulson's sentence.
The whole of the British press - despite the fact that 95% of it was never involved in the hacking of phones which led to this crackdown - was subjected to a judicial inquiry with draconian powers, greater than those handed to the Chilcot Inquiry which is looking into the war in Iraq in which 100,000 people died... Not only has this been hugely dangerous for the press in Britain, it has robbed us of all moral authority to be able to try to help countries battling authoritarianism in establishing a free press.
It is a great shame that this apparently experienced international delegation fell wholesale for the self-serving corporate blather of UK publishers. Of course there are differences of opinion and passionately held views on a difficult issue. But there was no excuse for systematically ignoring those of us who gave up significant time to explain some basic, underlying facts about Britain's press history and political constitution.
It's not an oversight or an accident that the PCC fails to spell out to the public which newspapers attract the most complaints and which papers breach the code most often. Look at this table of complaints about UK national daily and Sunday newspapers for 2013, compiled by Hacked Off from the PCC Monthly Complaint Summaries, and you will soon get an idea of who benefits if the public doesn't see these figures...
This country is now very close to settling a problem that has plagued it for generations. The problem was this: how to protect ordinary citizens from lying, bullying and unjustified intrusion carried out in the name of journalism, while at the same time ensuring that journalists were free to do the job they need to do to sustain our democracy. The solution is the Royal Charter on press self-regulation.
We should lower the voting age, and introduce compulsory voting- with a 'none of the above' option - in local and national elections. Russell Brand's performance with Jeremy Paxman was electrifying TV, but dangerous. People should get involved. They should vote. And they should get into politics in whatever way can make a difference.
I think the pace of change has been greater during our lifetime than in any other period in history, and nowhere more so than in the media; papers, radio and TV active 24 hours a day, deadlines and regional borders effectively gone, news and comment largely fused, trends accelerated by social media which did not exist when I left Downing Street, let alone when I started. Mark Zuckerberg, 29, was not even born when I set out on the Daily Mirror.
In 2009 newspapers were arguing to MPs that the existence of a no-win-no-fee system giving some ordinary people the ability to sue papers for breaching their rights was an unacceptable constraint on press freedom. The talk of 300 years of press freedom is not based on the facts but is an argument of convenience. Today these papers declare that the press has been free for centuries, but tomorrow, if it suits them, the same papers will insist with equal ardour that the press has never been free.
What did you do with your extra hour last Sunday? If Instagram were to be believed, I'd hazard a guess it was working on your Halloween costume. Yep, forget Christmas, if there's a 'festival' worth getting dressed up for, Halloween appears to be very much it... with us Brits having taken a cue from our American cousins and embraced the event with gusto this year. Away from pumpkins and cat costumes, it was a toss up this week as to who got the biggest fright.
British journalism has been battered by an unrelenting power grab on the part of the country's political classes. The move to foist an "all-party agreed" infrastructure of regulation by Royal Charter underpinned by punitive statutory sanction is part of a pattern of attack.
The fact of the matter is, rightly or wrongly, footballers and top sportsmen enjoy very little privacy, opinions on this will vary drastically. Nowadays, it comes with the job and lifestyle that your private life as a star football player is in the public interest, so you could argue that if you don't want your privacy infringed upon, don't become a pro footballer.
There is a wonderfully funny scene in the film Groundhog Day. The main character - played with laconic, dead-pan charm by Bill Murray - has been co...
The weekly email exchanges I have with the HuffPost mothership in America are usually fairly straightforward; we swap ideas for global reporting features, maybe pass requests on for a new piece of functionality. And then, every now and again, I have to explain an odd British quirk to a befuddled Yank reading an article on the UK version of the site and coming up against a brick wall of comprehension. We may share a common language, but there's still plenty of translating that needs doing.