There's a new book about the Phone Hacking scandal - or the parts which have come to light so far - and Roy Greenslade has an extract from Chris Atkins' chapter on Starsuckers. From which, I'm going to extract a key part:
Our biggest story was in The Sun, revealing that Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud was secretly a fan of Quantum Physics.Gordon Smart has been asked about this total made-up bollocks which he published in a newspaper, during the Leveson enquiry:
It ran as a lead story in Gordon Smart's Bizarre column. Smart's article also included a fabricated quote: 'There is a lot more going on under that blonde barnet than Sarah is given credit for. She's a smart cookie and does read an awful lot.'
This quote didn't come from Jen, showing that the Sun will add fictitious quotes into their articles, as well as not running basic checks.
At the time, Girls Aloud appeared regularly in The Sun, so it would have taken minutes to check with the agent or PR if there was any truth to our story.
The Harding physics story was then was picked up by dozens of news sites around the world. Had we claimed it, the story fee would have earned us £600 from News International...
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Actually, what we're discussing is the suggestion somebody deliberately made up a story and phoned you up and then it appeared in the newspaper. I don't consider that's entirely trivial. Do you?There's no explanation of how 'she might own a book, it's not impossible' turns into the made-up quote that Smart published.
[Gordon Smart]: No, I don't, and we take it seriously. We called the PR, we checked it out, and he said he had no issue with the story. He didn't want to ring the person, Sarah, directly about it because he said it sounds like her. He said, "It wouldn't surprise me at all if she owned a book like that", and that was a green light for me to publish.
What is beautiful, though, is how Smart promises that he takes seriously ensuring that everything he publishes is true while defending publishing a story that clearly isn't.