Neil Wallis Thrown Into Spotlight by Hacking Scandal – WSJ.com
One aspect of the tangled phone-hacking scandal in the U.K. is the alleged cozy relationships between tabloid editors and top police officers and leading politicians. Those connections are increasingly coming into view via the figure of Neil Wallis, a former editor at the News of the World.
Richard Pohle/Times of London
A Newsman Nicknamed ‘Wolfman’
After a career in tabloids, Neil Wallis went into public relations.
Wallis worked at the Daily Star until 1986
He joined the Sun in 1986; he was associate editor from 1990-93, then deputy editor from 1993-98
He was editor of Sunday People from 1998-2003
Wallis was deputy editor of News of the World from 2003-07, a time when Andy Coulson was editor; he was executive editor there from 2007-09
In 2009, he left journalism to work for Outside Organization, a public-relations firm; he became its managing director in 2010.
Wallis’s company, Chamy Media, provided ‘strategic communication advice and support’ to Scotland Yard from October 2009 to September 2010.
Source: Debrett’s; WSJ reporting
Mr. Wallis—an archetypal Fleet Street newspaperman known for aggressive tactics—was arrested last week in connection with phone-hacking probe at the News of the World, where he had been deputy editor. News Corp. shut down the weekly tabloid two weeks ago amid the scandal. The Metropolitan Police disclosed it employed Mr. Wallis as a paid PR adviser from October 2009 to September 2010.
Though Mr. Wallis was released and hasn’t been charged, there is a political dustup following disclosures that a person who was an editor at the paper at the time of its alleged transgressions has done public-relations work for British law enforcement.
Additionally, the Conservative Party on Tuesday said Mr. Wallis was informally—on an unpaid basis—helping Andy Coulson, a former communications strategist for Tory leader David Cameron, in the run-up to his successful election campaign as prime minister. Mr. Coulson was Mr. Wallis’s former boss at the News of the World.
Mr. Coulson resigned his government job earlier this year as the scandal mounted. He was recently arrested amid the investigation. Mr. Coulson was released and hasn’t been charged.
In the eyes of his critics, Mr. Wallis is controversial not only for having worked at News of the World when phone hacking allegedly occurred, but also because he exemplifies the often-ruthless world of British tabloid journalism.
Mr. Wallis didn’t respond to requests for an interview and his attorney didn’t return calls.
Mr. Wallis began his career at a tabloid called Daily Star, where he worked until 1986. He then joined the Sun newspaper, and was seen as a rising star. In 1987, he was one of the reporters who wrote a sensational exposé of Elton John’s alleged sex life. The singer sued and the Sun—also owned by News Corp.—paid £1 million ($1.61 million) in compensation and printed an apology to him on its front page.
News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.
While editor of the People newspaper in 2001, Mr. Wallis oversaw the publication of naked pictures of a British radio broadcaster, Sara Cox, taken on her honeymoon. The case went before the U.K.’s Press Complaints Commission, a press watchdog group where Mr. Wallis was a member at the time, and the paper published an apology.
Cameron Defends Handling of Crisis
Senators Press Dow Jones Panel to Probe U.K. Hacking Allegations
Ms. Cox also sued and went on to win a privacy case against the newspaper and was awarded about £50,000 in damages, plus legal costs, according to press accounts from that time.
At a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday about missteps in an earlier investigation into hacking allegations, departing Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said that he was unaware of connections between the police public-relations adviser and the News of the World.
Sir Paul said that Mr. Wallis’s job was a “part-time, minor role” and he wasn’t aware of his former role with News of the World. “I had no reason to connect Wallis with phone hacking, nothing had come to my attention,” he told the committee.