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on 13 November 2008
Fast-paced, funny and full of genuine scoops - one wonders if the author had to resort to the same dirty tricks on hacks as he claims they pull on their celebrity targets. As a journo on a tabloid myself in the past, I can certainly attest to the truth of at least some of the stunts. The latter half of the book is largely about the News of the World, and no less gripping for that. You even find yourself feeling sorry for the Z-list slebs that get hit on and done over. The papers, of course, don't really want to publicise this book - which is why it's even more important that everyone reads it. One warning: you'll never believe anything you read in the papers again.
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on 24 October 2010
If you think you know something about how newspapers work, think again - this book is fascinating, looking into the grubby world of tabloid journalism. Should be required reading for media students - and for all readers of the News of the World, frankly. Well worth a read, particularly with the Andy Coulson debate.
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on 29 March 2009
This book impresses with the quality of research and the depth of insight into many of the stories that are celebrated as huge scoops for the News of The World. It tries to illustrate that many of the shocking exposes run by the News of the World and some other tabloids are often distorted views of reality, serving to only damage the reputation of their targets in the name of shifting more copy.

A major target of this accusation is "fake sheik" Mazher Mahmood, who in a perverse role-reversal happens to be the subject of an act of reputation bashing on behalf of the author. He claims that Mahmood was fired from The Sunday Times after trying to change information on the paper's mainframe to save face. True or not, it is hardly the major issue that is portrayed and underplays the fact that journalism, particularly tabloid,is about finding stories that interest the public.

He does acknowledge that Mahmood has had some major coups in bringing down major criminals, but reckons that he has lost his touch and has not had a significant story in years. This is rather harsh, given that Mahmood himself admits that he cannot keep carrying off the fake sheik guise due to familiarity.

The rest of the book feels like it was written by a man on the outside looking in, which is fair enough, as the author is indeed by his own admission, not a journalist. Some of his arguments make for strong opinion, but opinion is a weaker weapon than hard fact and that makes it unconvincing in places. In particular, his personal link to Guy Pelly via his daughter, is written from the angle that he is a nice young man who got coaxed into a sleazy nightclub by a naughty tabloid. He claims there was no public interest, although in my opinion, having read the events, I would take issue with our second-in-line hanging around with someone who even in this flattering portrait, seems a bit of a lounge lizard.

The early chapters still keep this in good read territory, if by virtue that they are concise and fairly entertaining profiles of how the News of the World functions. It takes issue at the "dark-arts" and many of the examples exposed are very well explained. The Lawrence Dallagio sting and other drug related exposes give an angle to the stories that has never been debated, in that many rely on entrapment. The use of drugs to snare celebs is a theme running through many of the stings and is one of the more convincing arguments for evidence of foul play within the book.

I feel sorry for the celebs rather more after reading this book, but to be fair many of the celebs who claim to have been unfairly stung can only have themselves to blame for their actions and to morally slam tabloids for coercing the scoop due to their impulses is a feeble criticism.

If we had a press as desired by the author of this book, all kinds of sleaze would go undetected within society. This point is overlooked to argue of tabloids with too slack a leash. Do I agree with this argument..no, but I do feel it makes a fair stab at it and it is very well written.
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on 25 April 2012
Peter Burden admits that he is not a journalist but he does a very journalistic examination of the methods used by News of the World to get some of their big front page stories and it makes uncomfortable reading (although not entirely surprising given what we now know and what we probably suspected at the time.)

He could do an update now that the News of the World has closed down it would seem many of his accusations and assumptions were correct with knobs on. (I found the 'Harry Potter' story particularly upsetting and distasteful and wonder what happened afterwards to the reporter involved in that incident?)

A similar but more light hearted read is Stick it Up Your Punter, a hilarious account of Kelvin McKenzie's time as editor of The Sun. Piers Morgan's book The Insider is also interesting but obviously totally biased.

I am giving it 5 stars because I enjoyed it so much and he clearly did a good deal of research but what I would like to have known a little about was how widespread this type of corruption was inside the NoW. Many journalists at the News of the World claim just a few of their reporters were 'rogue' and I would like to have known a little more about what the rest of the staff thought or knew about what their more colourful colleagues were getting up to. Were the others quietly ignoring them or were they admiring them? Joining in at times or just keeping their heads down?
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VINE VOICEon 31 July 2011
Fake sheikhs and royal trappings
I read this book in one sitting. I am interested in the British media and recently we have had our fill on what has been happening at the News of the World. This book was written in 2008. Had I read it a few months ago I could have assumed that the story had finished but the recent allegations had blown it all open again.
It was interesting that we did not really care when the newspapers were trapping minor members of the royal family and tin pot celebrities. It all got worse recently when it was alleged that the journalists or their private investigators hacked into the phone of Milly Dowler. Her parents thought she was still alive as the messages on her phone had been deleted. I never understood why the journalists deleted the messages but I am guessing they wanted it clear so that they could listen to new messages.
The journalists hacked the princes' phones and I learnt that Harry's nickname at Sandhurst was sicknote , now that is funny.
It is a good intro to the hacking scandal but we have heard so much more information so this book is now well out of date. I hadn't heard of the book before so obviously we thought that the whole scandal was over and the perpetrators had been dealt with.
Now we know this was just round one and the fight is still not over.
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on 1 October 2008
News of the World?: Fake Sheikhs and Royal Trappings
Peter Burden has written a masterful account of the questionable means by which tabloid newspapers, and in particular to this book, the News of the World's reporters', Clive Goodman and Mazher Mahmood, come up with their stories. Burden makes a case for better qualifying the oft used defense of stories being in the Public Interest when in actual fact they are merely of interest to the public and the ever worsening battle for maintaining circulation and profit. Written with humour his book gives some fascinating insights into the workings of a tabloid newspaper, its characters and tabloid journalism. He professes not to be a journalist, but his investigative powers are certainly in evidence in this book. A good page turner and particularly relevant at a time when our personal privacy is increasingly under attack in our surveillance dominated society.
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