By the halfway mark, The Guardian journalist Nick Davies has made the reader well aware that he is a painstakingly good reporter. His inside account of how he helped expose the depth of the hacking scandal within the News of The World is a masterpiece of journalistic endeavour and patience. But the second half of the book is too self-serving and descends into an attack on Rupert Murdoch and the clan the media tycoon has built around him.
It’s a shame. If Davies had stuck to hacking and the covert world of newspaper executives, senior police officers and private investigators, it would have given him the moral high ground. But when he strays he relies too much on anecdotes and lacks any great insight. One is left feeling that Davies dislikes Murdoch as much as the Murdochs despise the BBC.
The media world is a healthier place post-hacking and Davies deserves great credit for prising the scandal open. The scale of the criminal behaviour he reveals is breathtaking but Davies should have acknowledged that, for all their faults, some of the tabloid practices did – and still do – bring down bad guys too. I spent 16 years working in Wapping and the tabloid practices were not endemic. It was a tightly run commercial enterprise and one that many other news groups have failed to match, but to say that nothing was wrong at the core is plainly stupid. Hack Attack is a page-turner and is definitely worth reading.
Reviewed by John Waples, senior MD and UK head of strategic comms at FTI Consulting and former business editor of The Sunday Times