On Thursday, January 19th, the front page of the Daily Mail carried a story about Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland. During Goodwin’s tenure, from 2000 to 2008, R.B.S. quadrupled its assets, became the fifth-largest bank in the world, and then failed spectacularly, at a cost to British taxpayers of seventy billion dollars. The Mail illustrated the piece with a large photograph of Goodwin. He was dressed in hunting gear, with a shotgun hanging over the crook of his left elbow. “Reviled: Sir Fred Goodwin,” the caption read. Any further doubt about the Mail’s stance was relieved by the headline: “STRIP FRED ‘THE SHRED’ OF TAINTED KNIGHTHOOD DEMAND MPS.” The exclusive story, the latest in a series of unflattering pieces about Goodwin, revealed that Prime Minister David Cameron was “sympathetic” to the idea that the honor should be revoked. Two weeks later, Goodwin became the only Knight Bachelor in memory to lose his commission without having been censured by a professional body or convicted of a criminal offense. “Fred Goodwin joined the ranks of Robert Mugabe and Nicolae Ceausescu last night when his knighthood was removed by order of the Queen,” the Mail announced.
The Mail is the most powerful newspaper in Great Britain. A middle-market tabloid, with a daily readership of four and a half million, it reaches four times as many people as the Guardian, while being taken more seriously than the one paper that outsells it, the Sun. In January, its Web arm, Mail Online, surpassed that of the New York Times as the most visited newspaper site in the world, drawing fifty-two million unique visitors a month. The Mail’s closest analogue in the American media is perhaps Fox News. In Britain, unlike in the United States, television tends to be a dignified affair, while print is berserk and shouty. The Mail is like Fox in the sense that it speaks to, and for, the married, car-driving, homeowning, conservative-voting suburbanite, but it is unlike Fox in that it is not slavishly approving of any political party. One editor told me, “The paper’s defining ideology is that Britain has gone to the dogs.” Nor is the Mail easy to resist. Last year, its lawyers shut down a proxy site that allowed liberals to browse Mail Online without bumping up its traffic.
The Mail presents itself as the defender of traditional British values, the voice of an overlooked majority whose opinions inconvenience the agendas of metropolitan élites. To its detractors, it is the Hate Mail, goading the worst curtain-twitching instincts of an island nation, or the Daily Fail, fuelling paranoia about everything from immigration to skin conditions. (“WITHIN A DAY OF HIS ECZEMA BEING INFECTED, MARC WAS DEAD,” a recent headline warned.) A Briton’s view of the Mail is a totemic indicator of his sociopolitical orientation, the dinner-party signal for where he stands on a host of other matters. In 2010, a bearded, guitar-strumming band called Dan & Dan had a YouTube hit with “The Daily Mail Song,” which, so far, has been viewed more than 1.3 million times. “Bring back capital punishment for pedophiles / Photo feature on schoolgirl skirt styles / Binge Britain! Single Mums! / Pensioners! Hoodie Scum!” Dan sings. “It’s absolutely true because I read it in the Daily Mail.” The Mail is less a parody of itself than a parody of the parody, its rectitudinousness cancelling out others’ ridicule to render a middlebrow juggernaut that can slay knights and sway Prime Ministers.
In 2000, Tony Blair wrote a memo to his advisers (it later leaked) in which he pinpointed some “touchstone issues” that he wanted to address immediately. They were: the family (“we need two or three eye-catching initiatives that are entirely conventional in terms of their attitude”); asylum (“where we are perceived as soft”); crime; defense; and the case of Tony Martin, a fruit farmer from the Norfolk village of Emneth Hungate, who had been sentenced to life in prison after killing a burglar on his property. Blair feared, he wrote, that he was perceived as being out of touch with “gut British instincts.” That morning, the Mail had run an editorial lambasting him as “the worst offender in the new politics of intolerance,” in which a citizen who expressed unfashionable views was branded as a “xenophobic little Englander.” The paper had enumerated five areas of concern. As it happened, they mirrored almost precisely the quintet, including the fruit farmer, that Blair had suddenly become so eager to deal with.
Fred Goodwin, a married father of two, was an especially tasty mark for the Mail. He had demonstrated personal frailty as well as professional incompetence, by conducting an affair with a colleague as R.B.S. collapsed. In the Mail’s cosmology, men are giants or pygmies, strong or weak. (Women are assessed by other metrics.) Such is the Mail’s censoriousness that British Esquire recently deemed it the nation’s “purse-lipped mother-in-law.” After the affair, Goodwin obtained from the High Court a gag order that forbade the British media from reporting it. This rankled the Mail, which flouted the injunction without technically violating the law. If its competitors lob spitballs at their bugbears, the Mail strafes them with righteousness.
The Mail’s editor, Paul Dacre, considers it a compliment when critics accuse the paper of moralizing. “The family is the greatest institution on God’s green earth,” he told me recently, sitting on a dotted-swiss sofa in his London office, which is swagged in the camels and burgundys, the brasses and woods, that one would expect of a man who, as a student at the University of Leeds, chanted “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh” but now says, “For the life of me, I’m not quite sure why.” According to one editor, Dacre is enamored with New Zealand: “He thinks it’s like Britain from the nineteen-fifties.” This retrograde mind-set has recently been notable in the Mail’s insistence that marriage should be solely between a woman and a man.
The paper, which runs to about a hundred pages a day, is not all gloom. It has an equable rhythm. The serious stuff is supplemented by a beguiling lineup of novelty stories (the girl who eats nothing but chicken nuggets), animal stories (the surfing hippopotamus), personal essays (“I married a skinflint!”), barely disguised press releases (cranberry-cheese-flavored crisps on sale at Tesco), recipes, gossip, crosswords, obituaries, amusing pictures, and heartwarming fluff. The Mail is the place to go if you want to see a house that looks like Hitler, or a tabby with its head encased in a slice of bread. These are, as the former Daily Express editor Arthur Christiansen, one of Dacre’s heroes, once wrote, the “human twiddly bits that make for conversations in the pubs.”
The Mail has an oral quality, prompting the exclamations of wonder or disgust that attend what the media critic Roy Greenslade has called “Hey, Doris!” stories. Its quirks include a love of aviation, and the annoying habit of inserting real-estate prices into stories that have nothing to do with them, such as the death in a ski-resort accident of a boy whose parents “live in a £1 million house.” Its columnists range from sensible to unhinged. (One, Liz Jones, recently wrote about stealing her husband’s sperm in an attempt to have a child without his permission, earning her the nickname Jizz Loans.) Some of the paper’s greatest interest arises when Doris hollers back. Harry Simpson, of Northwich, Cheshire, wrote recently:
I’m sick of Melvyn Bragg, Hugh Grant, Joan Bakewell, and Anne Robinson. I’m sick of Vince Cable, the entire Labour Shadow Cabinet, and all the politicians.
I’m sick of squatters and travellers, pop music, the BBC, surveillance cameras, my rotten pension, terrorists, Anglican bishops, and having no money, and I just want to die.
My country, which I loved is ruined. It will never be happy again. It is all self, self, self, moan, moan, moan. I cannot wait to get out and rest in peace.
He had forgotten wind turbines and E.U. bureaucrats.
Last week, the Mail swept the British Press Awards, winning nine, including Newspaper of the Year and Website of the Year. The Mail’s competitive advantage lies in its connection to its readers. “There’s a lot of rubbish talked about what people are interested in,” Dacre told me. “When my executives tell me everyone’s fascinated by a particular subject—say, a pop star or a film—I ask myself, ‘Would my family be interested?’ Eight times out of ten, I instinctively know when the answer is no.”
Dacre is a divining rod for stories, detecting journalistic gold on ground that others have bypassed or hurried over. Simon Kelner, a former editor of the Independent and the chief executive of the Journalism Foundation, said, “What the Mail does so well is to shamelessly borrow from other media. Even if a story has been somewhere else, you’ll find it the next day in the Mail, done bigger, very often done better, with a real sense they have that the people who read the Mail only read the Mail.” A reporter on a rival paper told me, “Dacre has this sense for what’s really going to get the average punter wound up.”
As the British press faces the heat of the phone-hacking scandal, which has most heavily involved Rupert Murdoch’s News International group, the Mail has not withered. The arrests of dozens of journalists, for illegally accessing the voice-mail messages of more than eight hundred victims, led Murdoch, in July, to close the News of the World, and resulted in the resignation of Cameron’s press secretary Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor. Rebekah Brooks, who ran News International for Murdoch, has been arrested twice.
Because the Mail has not been implicated in phone hacking, Dacre, the longest-serving editor on Fleet Street, has emerged as the person best able, and most willing, to articulate an uncowed defense of popular newspapers. (He also holds the executive role of editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, a group that includes the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, Mail Online, and Metro, a free newspaper.) Called to testify at the ongoing Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices, and ethics of the press, he was unflinching, bordering on truculent. Recently, his colleagues were amused to see a framed cartoon go up on his office wall. It features a lone figure flying through the window of Lord Justice Leveson’s courtroom. He wears a red-and-blue unitard and carries a banner that reads “Press Freedom.”
Two lawyers below ask, “Is it a bird?” “Is it a plane?”
A third answers, “No, it’s Dacreman!”
In January, Gary Dobson and David Norris, two white men, were convicted in the murder of Stephen Lawrence, a black teen-ager who was attacked by a racist gang in 1993. The case had been re-opened largely on the strength of a long-running campaign by the Mail, which, in 1997, took the gamble of putting the men’s photographs on its front page, under the headline “MURDERERS,” and declared, “The Mail accuses these men of killing. If we are wrong, let them sue us.” When the verdict was announced, Dacre, who rarely speaks in public, issued a twelve-minute video speech, saying that it was a “glorious day for British newspapers.” Many of Dacre’s peers found the video to be over the top, but its point was clear: the Mail would not be joining the British press in its collective self-flagellation.
Mail Online, with its parade of celebrities in their bathing suits, gained six million viewers between December and January alone. American traffic was up sixty-two per cent last year. Its home page has become furtively prevalent in Manhattan cubicles. In January, when Mail Online surpassed the Times, a spokeswoman for the latter said, “A quick review of our site versus the Daily Mail should indicate quite clearly that they are not in our competitive set.” The Mail’s contention is that American newspapers have become too effete to prosper. Its ambitions transcend Pulitzers. “They’re not in our competitive set, to be honest,” Martin Clarke, the editor of Mail Online, said when I asked him about the Times. “I did think they were spectacularly sore losers, but I could not care less if we overtake the Times. What matters to me is: Are we bigger than MSN? Are we bigger than Yahoo?”
The first issue of the Daily Mail appeared on May 4, 1896. At a halfpenny per copy, it was designed to attract the newly literate masses, whose education had been insured by the Education Act of 1870—“the £1000 a year men.” Lord Salisbury, the former Prime Minister, sneered that it was written “by office-boys for office-boys,” but the first edition sold 397,215 copies, far exceeding the expectations of its proprietor, Alfred Harmsworth. He wrote, “It is essentially the busy man’s paper.”
Harmsworth, the son of a creative but ineffectual Irish barrister, had decided to become a journalist after leaving school at sixteen. His first success was a light magazine called Answers to Correspondents on Every Subject Under the Sun, which engaged such questions as how long a severed head could remain conscious after a decapitation. As Answers took off, Harmsworth brought in his brother Harold to run the financial side. Answers thrived in part owing to Alfred Harmsworth’s genius for promotion. In 1889, he hit upon a scheme he called A Pound a Week for Life!, which assured a perpetual income to the person who came closest to guessing the amount of gold in the Bank of England. The magazine received 718,218 postcard entries. The winner, a surveyor from Southampton, was able to marry on his prize.
With the launch of the Mail, Harmsworth became a political force. During the Boer War, he used the paper to cheer on the imperialist project of Cecil Rhodes. Soon, the Mail’s circulation had risen above a million, making it the largest in the world. By 1903, Alfred and his brothers Harold and Leicester owned the Mail, the Evening News, the Daily Mirror, and the Daily Record. Harmsworth, who received a baronetcy in 1904 (he joked that he’d gone from “Mr. ’Armsworth to Sir Halfred”) and became Lord Northcliffe in 1905, browbeat public opinion without compunction. “See if I don’t force everybody in the country to eat Standard Bread,” he is said to have boasted, after reading a pamphlet on the dangers of white bread. (It was written by a landowner from Staffordshire named Sir Oswald Mosley.)
By 1914, Northcliffe owned one out of every two papers read in London. Two years later, he helped to bring down Herbert Asquith’s government. The Mail, a bellicose presence during the First World War, became known as “the soldier’s friend.” When Northcliffe died, of a heart condition, in 1922, his brother Harold—by then Lord Rothermere—inherited the paper. As the decade wore on, Rothermere became increasingly reactionary. In 1934, the Mail promoted the ideas of another Mosley—Oswald’s namesake grandson. This time, it was the British Union of Fascists, not bread, as the Mail published a now infamous editorial entitled “Hurrah for the Blackshirts.” Throughout the thirties, Rothermere, who supported appeasement, maintained a close relationship with Hitler. His papers reflected the admiration that he expressed in an October, 1938, telegram:
PERSONAL MY DEAR FUHRER EVERYONE IN ENGLAND IS PROFOUNDLY MOVED BY THE BLOODLESS SOLUTION OF THE CZECHOSLOVAKIAN PROBLEM STOP PEOPLE NOT SO MUCH CONCERNED WITH TERRITORIAL READJUSTMENT AS WITH DREAD OF ANOTHER WAR WITH ITS ACCOMPANYING BLOODBATH STOP FREDERICK THE GREAT WAS A GREAT POPULAR FIGURE IN ENGLAND MAY NOT ADOLF THE GREAT BECOME AN EQUALLY POPULAR FIGURE STOP I SALUTE YOUR EXCELLENCYS STAR WHICH RISES HIGHER AND HIGHER.
When the Second World War began, the Mail changed its course, writing on September 4, 1939, “We now fight against the blackest tyranny that has ever held men in bondage,” but its credibility was damaged.
The Mail languished until the nineteen-seventies, when Vere Harmsworth, the third Viscount Rothermere, brought in David English as its editor. In 1971, they relaunched the paper as a tabloid. It was younger, brighter, and explicitly targeted toward a female readership. (“Every woman needs her Daily Mail.”) Today, the Daily Mail and General Trust, which owns the Mail, is controlled by the fourth Viscount Rothermere, Jonathan, a graduate of Gordonstoun and Duke. Associated Newspapers made a hundred and eighteen million dollars last year, but the Mail is still very much a family business. (According to “Lords of Fleet Street,” by Richard Bourne, the Mail for many years did not review James Bond novels, because Ian Fleming had an affair with the wife of the second Viscount Rothermere.) In 1992, Rupert Murdoch offered Dacre the editorship of the London Times. He agonized over the offer but turned it down, because of his loyalty to the Rothermeres. He has said, “I am deeply aware of the privilege of working for a company run by a family that believes in letting editors edit.”
Each weekday, Dacre presides over a series of meetings in which his editors pitch stories for the next day’s paper. The meetings take place in his office, in the Mail’s headquarters, at Northcliffe House, in Kensington. Northcliffe House is built around a central atrium, with glass-walled elevators and corporate vegetation—it could be a hotel in Hong Kong—but Dacre’s realm is clad in white wood panelling. He sits at a boat of a desk, in front of a gilt-framed seascape. Editors take their positions on chairs and couches, or stand against the walls, according to their seniority. Men wear suits, ties, and black lace-ups, in imitation of their boss. Women preferably wear skirts. The news editor sits closest to Dacre, a man of both prim and volcanic temperament, at the risk of attracting his fury. “It’s like a ducking stool,” a former Mail editor said. Because Dacre tends to refer to underlings as “cunts,” the daily meetings are known as the Vagina Monologues.
On February 22nd, just after noon, a secretary announced over an intercom that a “pre-pre-conference” was about to begin. Editors scurried into Dacre’s office. He was annoyed that his night staff had not got much coverage of the previous evening’s Brit Awards—the U.K.’s Grammys—into the morning’s paper. “Unacceptable,” he said. Adele had given the middle finger to the audience after the show’s organizers cut off her acceptance speech. Dacre, channelling the average punter, thought it a good subject. “It’s the arrogance of celebrity, isn’t it?” he said.
The debate was smart and fast. The surety with which Dacre and his editors moved gave the meeting the feeling of a tribunal, in which the heroes and the villains of each day’s news cycle would be made to answer for their actions. There can be a certain J. Edgar Hooverishness to the Mail’s surveillance of the scene. Dacre could never stand Tony Blair, in part, the Guardian reported, because he had been horrified to see Cherie Blair breast-feeding in public. In 2007, the socialite Sabrina Guinness sought the aid of the Press Complaints Commission with regard to an article in the Mail that had implied that she was in a relationship with Paul McCartney. The commission’s records state, “The complaint was resolved when the newspaper placed a note on its internal files making clear the complainant’s position that she was not romantically involved with Sir Paul.”
At one point, the editor of Femail, the paper’s section for women, mentioned that she was seeking a piece from Ulrika Jonsson, a British television presenter, on why she’d got so horribly thin. “And what is her explanation?” Dacre intoned, with the lethal diction of a prefect.
One of Dacre’s contributing editors proposed a review of the red-carpet fashion from the Brit Awards, which he approved. “Why don’t we just keep it to the ‘misses,’ ” he said. “They looked awfully tarty to me, but what do I know?” He was especially interested in One Direction, a previously clean-cut post-pubescent group that had celebrated its win for Best British Single by downing numerous bottles of champagne in full view of the cameras.
“We’ve got to do this boy band, don’t we?” he said. “After all, all boy bands come and go. Are we going to have an idiot’s guide to this one?”
No one had any ideas.
“But I repeat,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest. “Is it worth doing this boy group?” (It was.)
Dacre O.K.’d a piece on outlet shopping (“Do it. Don’t rush it,” he said), and another on London Fashion Week (“I think we need a lot of slightly raised-eyebrow analysis”). He wasn’t interested in a new statistic that said that the number of children in the U.K. who smoked had hit a million—too obvious—but he wanted to go big on coverage of the Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin, who had been killed in Syria that morning. He had in mind a great, passionately done piece, he said, that was a mixture of profile, remembrance, and—perhaps remembering Leveson—polemic on how the press gets a bad press.
Jon Steafel, the paper’s executive editor, brought up the story of a gang of men who had allegedly plied five young women with alcohol and raped them. The case, one of a spate of “sex grooming” incidents, was being tried in Liverpool.
“Why is this case more shocking than the others?” Dacre asked.
“Scale. Sheer scale,” Steafel answered.
“Shocking phenomenon,” Dacre said.
Another editor chimed in. “What’s shocking is that a thirteen-year-old got pregnant,” she said. “Grotesque.”
“Let’s get on it, then,” Dacre said.
In 2004, Dacre appeared on “Desert Island Discs,” the BBC Radio program in which “castaways” tell the story of their life through songs. His first selection was “Night Train,” by the Oscar Peterson trio. “This seems to sum up newspapers—repetitive, metallic, coming out every day, remorseless energy,” he said. The song sounded like a Mondrian in Dacre’s rendering. When the show’s host asked how he thought his colleagues would characterize him, he said, “I think they’d say, ‘He’s a hard bastard, but he leads from the front.’ ” The host pressed him about his management style, but he was unapologetic. “Shouting creates energy, energy creates great headlines,” he said.
Dacre was born in London in 1948. His father, Peter, an orphan who had made his way from Yorkshire to Fleet Street, worked as a show-biz editor for the Sunday Express. His mother, Joan, a teacher, bore five sons, of whom Paul was the eldest. The family lived in Arnos Grove, a middle-class area just north of the city. Dacre still thinks of his childhood neighborhood as the spiritual habitat of his archetypal reader: “Its inhabitants were frugal, reticent, utterly self-reliant, and immensely aspirational. They were also suspicious of progressive values, vulgarity of any kind, self-indulgence, pretentiousness, and people who know best.” Friday nights, Dacre would rush to grab the carbon-copy black out of his father’s briefcase. The ticking of a telex machine lulled him to sleep.
“From virtually the moment I was born, I wanted to be an editor,” Dacre told the Society of Editors in 2008. “Not just wanted, if I’m being honest. Hungered. Lusted with a passion that while unfulfilled, would gnaw at my entrails.” He won a scholarship to a private school, where he edited the campus magazine. One of the first issues, an “achingly dull” examination of the preacher Billy Graham, who was touring Britain at the time, “went down like a sodden hot cross bun.” The next month, he sneaked some expletives into the magazine. He realized, he said, that “sensation sells.”
Dacre studied English at Leeds, where he met his wife, Kathleen, a professor of theatre studies. (The couple sent their two sons to Eton. One of them is a businessman and the other is James Dacre, a theatre director who, in 2009, premièred Katori Hall’s Olivier Award-winning play, “The Mountaintop,” in London.) At Leeds, Dacre edited the Union News. He took a paper, he has said, that looked like “the Times on Prozac” and infused it with tabloid excitement in the form of pinups whom he dubbed the “Leeds Lovelies.” Under Dacre’s editorship, the paper supported campus sit-ins. When, on the ground of obscenity, the Yorkshire Post refused to engrave the picture blocks for an investigation of pubs that were putting on strip shows, Dacre accused its editor of censorship. The Union News was named Britain’s collegiate Newspaper of the Year.
Dacre’s first job after graduating was as a reporter in the Manchester office of the Daily Express. When we spoke, he recalled “the thrill of seeing my first story in hot metal.” I asked him what the story had been. “It’s too absurd for words,” he replied, smiling. “It was six pages about a donkey derby in Blackpool.” In 1976, the Express sent Dacre to New York to cover the American elections. “I left an ossified, sclerotic Britain of great state-nationalized, money-losing industries and vast council estates of despair in thrall to corrupt Labour councils, and I went to America, and it was an utter revelation to me,” he once said. Dacre stayed in America for six years, shedding his student politics and becoming a disciple of self-reliance. A photograph from the era shows him sitting in the Baton Rouge airport a seat away from Sid Vicious, looking perplexed. When the picture surfaced, last year, no one could believe that Paul Dacre had ever been in the same room with Sid Vicious.
When I interviewed Dacre, he was courteous, if slightly brittle. When I asked a question, he would close his eyes and rub them, as though they were magic lamps that might conjure answers. “My guiding principle is to produce the best journalism possible every day and to connect with and give voice to as many readers as possible,” he said. “There is a passion in the Mail that isn’t in other papers.”
The Mail pours money into its product, triple-commissioning features and flooding doorsteps with reporters when its competitors are content, or compelled, to rely on wire reports. Its staff journalists are decently paid, but many of them speak of a savage work environment. “I subsisted largely in a state of paranoia and panic for most of my time there,” a former Mail journalist told me. (Others said that recently, with the defection of several Mail editors to the Telegraph, the atmosphere in the newsroom has mellowed somewhat.) “I just got fed up with writing picture captions about celebrities’ saggy knees, and thought they were hypocritical and unfair,” she continued. “I thought, I’m going to hell if I keep writing this.”
Occasionally, Dacre, with Harmsworthian vim, will fixate on a subject. In 2008, it was plastic bags, which he came to loathe after seeing one stuck in a tree while he was driving in the countryside. Mail employees were surprised to see the paper, which had for years dismissed global warming as a scam, taking up an environmental cause, but soon it had launched a campaign to “Banish the Bags.” When Dacre, who has worked fifteen hours a day for forty years, comes storming into the office with an obsession, his colleagues say, jokingly, that he must have had “a near-life experience.”
On January 25th, the model Kate Moss went to some parties in Paris. The next morning’s Mail read, “The Croydon beauty had very obvious crow’s feet and lines beneath her eyes as well as blemished skin from years of smoking and drinking.” Another journalist, interviewing her that day, asked why she thought the Mail was so focussed on her aging.
“I don’t know. ’Cause it’s the Daily Mail ?” Moss replied. “They just get on everyone’s tits, don’t they?”
The Mail takes a skeptical view of celebrities. It covers them, maximally, but often its stories are about their fading looks, their failing marriages, their hypocrisy, their illegitimate children. In 1997, after Princess Diana’s death, the third Viscount Rothermere promised that the paper would no longer use photographs taken by paparazzi—a vow that didn’t last. Recently, the phone-hacking scandal has provided an opportunity for celebrities to exact revenge on the British press. This winter, parts of the Leveson Inquiry were overtaken by a grudge match between the Mail and Hugh Grant.
Grant took the stand on November 21st. In the course of bemoaning the intrusiveness of the press, he brought up a story that had appeared in the Mail on Sunday in February, 2007, about an affair that he was supposedly having with a “plummy-voiced studio executive.” (Grant sued the Mail on Sunday, which admitted that the story was false and paid him damages.) The proceedings continued:
LAWYER: Are you suggesting there that the story must have come from phone hacking?
GRANT: Well, what I say in this paragraph is that the Mail on Sunday ran an article in February, 2007, saying that my relationship with my then girlfriend, Jemima Khan, was on the rocks because of my persistent late-night flirtatious phone calls with a “plummy-voiced studio executive” from Warner Brothers, and it was a bizarre story, completely untrue . . . . But thinking about how they could possibly come up with such a bizarre left-field story, I realized . . . there was a great friend of mine in Los Angeles who runs a production company which is associated with Warner Brothers, and whose assistant is a charming, married, middle-aged lady, English, who, as happens in Hollywood, is the person who rings you. . . . She used to call and she used to leave messages and, because she was a nice English girl in L.A., sometimes when we spoke, we’d have a chat about English stuff, Marmite . . . and she has a voice that could only be described as “plummy.” So I cannot for the life of me think of any conceivable source for this story in the Mail on Sunday except those voice messages on my mobile telephone.
LAWYER: You haven’t alleged that before, have you, in the public domain?
GRANT: No, but when I was preparing this statement and going through all my old trials and tribulations with the press, I looked at that one again and thought, That is weird, and then the penny dropped.
Dacre heard of Grant’s allegations as he was listening to the 4 P.M. news in the back of a town car. Within seconds, he was on the telephone, drafting a rebuttal with his lawyers and deputies. The Mail released a statement that afternoon. It said, in part, “Mr. Grant’s allegations are mendacious smears driven by his hatred of the media.”
Grant told the BBC that the Mail had attacked him because, for once, someone had had the temerity to stand up to its bullying. “If you do,” he said, “you will be trashed.”
On February 6th, it was Dacre’s turn to face the inquiry. He carried an ochre briefcase and wore a double-breasted gray suit. He is an imposing man of six feet three, with a ruddy complexion and the thin-lipped glare of a coach. As he hulked into the courtroom, everyone seemed to straighten up. Twitter was less reverent, but no less riveted. “Will Dacre defy his tender years in a vampish red dress?” @ozzfan123 wrote, in the style of the Mail’s celebrity pages.
Dacre spoke quietly, his voice at times shading into, as Simon Carr, of the Independent, later wrote, “the electrifying growl every regular reader would recognise as the authentic voice of the Mail.” During the early two-thousands, Mail reporters, like those on many papers, regularly used private investigators, some of whom resorted to illegal means to obtain personal information such as phone numbers and addresses. In 2006, the Information Commissioner’s Office released a tally of assignments that had been found in the notebooks of the private investigator Steve Whittamore, who was convicted in 2005 of violating Britain’s Data Protection Act. (In one of the instances for which he went to jail, Whittamore did an illegal trace for the Mail on Sunday on the license plate of a scooter that a union leader had been seen riding.) The Mail topped the list, with nine hundred and fifty-two requests by fifty-eight journalists, for jobs such as those, for various papers, which Whittamore noted in his invoices: “Bonking headmaster, Lonely heart, Dirty vicar, Street stars split, Miss World bonks sailor, Dodgy landlord, Judge affair, Royal maid, Witchdoctor, Footballer, TV love child.” But the Mail has insisted that it did not hack phones, and no one has produced proof that it did. “Let me say as clearly and as slowly as I can: I have never placed a story in the Daily Mail as a result of phone hacking that I knew came from phone hacking,” Dacre told Leveson. “Having conducted a major internal enquiry, I’m as confident as I can be that there’s no phone hacking on the Daily Mail.”
During three hours of questioning, Dacre refused to rescind the slur against Grant. “I will withdraw that statement if Mr. Grant withdraws his statements that the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday were involved in phone hacking,” he said. Justice Leveson, angered by the stalemate, called Dacre back for another day of questioning. Again he didn’t budge. Asked at one point about the merits of a (true) report in the Mail that Grant had fathered a “love child,” Dacre parried that Grant had invited such attention by placing himself in the public eye. The paper subsequently carried a box entitled “How Hugh Grant Invaded His Own Privacy (with a little help from his friends).” It was illustrated with a demonic picture of Grant, and featured basically every embarrassing thing that he, or anyone he knows, has ever said.
Robert Jay, the counsel to the Leveson Inquiry, questioned Dacre about a column, by Jan Moir, that had caused outrage by insinuating that the death of the singer Stephen Gateley, of the boy band Boyzone, had had something to do with his being gay. (A coroner found that he had died of natural causes.) “I think the piece—the column could have benefitted from a little judicious subediting,” Dacre said. “But I’d die in a ditch to defend a columnist’s right to have her views, and I can tell this Inquiry there isn’t a homophobic bone in Jan Moir’s body.” But gay people, and others not in traditional relationships, seem lacking in the Mail’s estimation. Dacre once told an interviewer that he didn’t think a newspaper could have an editor who wasn’t married with children, because he “wouldn’t understand the human condition.”
In March, the longtime editor of the Mail on Sunday
Not to be confused with Email.
MailOnline (also known as dailymail.co.uk) is the website of the Daily Mail, a newspaper in the United Kingdom, and of its sister paper The Mail on Sunday. MailOnline is a division of DMG Media, part of Associated Newspapers Ltd.
Launched in 2003, MailOnline was made into a separately managed site in 2006 under the editorship of Martin Clarke. It is now the most visited English-language newspaper website in the world, with over 11.34m visitors daily in August 2014.
The website has an international readership, featuring separate home pages for the UK, USA, India and Australia. While the MailOnline maintains the conservative editorial stance of the print edition, much of the content featured on the website is produced exclusively for the MailOnline and is not published in the Daily Mail. It is known for its "sidebar of shame", a box listing celebrity misdemeanours. The Financial Times has suggested that "If you are tired of MailOnline, you are tired of Kim Kardashian’s life – and most readers are not"; conversely George Clooney has described it as "the worst kind of tabloid. One that makes up its facts to the detriment of its readers" after it published an untrue story about his fiancée's family. The website reached 199.4 million unique monthly visitors in December 2014, up from 189.52 million in January 2014 and 128.59 million in May 2013, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Globally, MailOnline is the most visited English-language newspaper website;ComScore gave the site 61.6 million unique desktop computer visitors for January 2014, ahead of The New York Times website, which received 41.97 million visitors in the same month. According to ComScore, MailOnline recorded 100.5 million visitors across desktop computers, smartphones and tablets in that month. In July 2014 it recorded 134 million users.
Almost 70% of its traffic comes from outside the UK, mostly from the United States. The Daily Mail print newspaper has no presence there, but has aggressively targeted the country with its online offering, branded as the "Daily Mail" rather than MailOnline. In January 2014 it paid over £1m to the Charleston Daily Mail for the domain name www.dailymail.com in order to increase its attractiveness to US advertisers.
In January 2014, it was ranked the eighth most-visited news website in Australia, up from 10 in December 2013. Globally the site was forecast to reach £60m in advertising sales in the year to September 2014, up 49%. £35m has been invested in creating the site. The site has introduced sponsored articles, with a guarantee of 450,000 page views at a cost of £65,000 per article.
MailOnline features a broad mixture of international news, and carries mainly UK-focused coverage of sport, personal finance, travel, celebrity news, science and lifestyle editorial. As of September 2014, it employs 615 people, including 406 editorial staff. These create over 750 articles per day, the editorial stance of which broadly reflects that of the Daily Mail, being to the right wing of mainstream British politics and typically supporting the UK Conservative Party. MailOnline articles tend to be dominated by pictures rather than long-form journalism.
A major component of the website is its entertainment news, often featuring celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or members of the British Royal Family such as the Duchess of Cambridge. It is estimated that 25% of the traffic received by the website is purely to access the entertainment and gossip stories.
The website allows users to create accounts in order to comment on articles, and also allows anyone to express anonymous approval or disapproval of comments made. The site also publishes statistics about this activity. The house rules state that the monitors usually remove inappropriate content in full, although they do reserve the right to edit comments. The site also does not allow comments on some articles for legal or editorial reasons.
- September 2009: Geek.com reported that a story posted in MailOnline about a solar panel made from human hair was a hoax. Engineer Edward Craig Hyatt stated that it was not possible to use human hair in any configuration to generate electricity when exposed to light.
- June 2010: The Guardian reported that MailOnline had published an inaccurate story about an iPhone 4 recall, based on a Twitter message from a parody account by a Steve Jobs impersonator. MailOnline realised its error and removed the article.
- In October 2011, MailOnline and several other news sources published standby articles on Amanda Knox's trial prematurely. The articles reported an upholding of the guilty verdict before the judge had finished announcing the reversal of the guilty verdict. MailOnline stated the article was removed within 90 seconds and apologized. The article became the subject of a Press Complaints Commission complaint that noted the article's reporting of events and reactions that had not taken place and said that was "not acceptable" but commented positively on the handling of the error.
- January 2012: ABC News Radio reported the falsity of a story "repeated by numerous media outlets" concerning a supposed naming by Advertising Age of a campaign by singer Rihanna for fashion house Armani as the "sexiest ad of the year." The story, Ad Age said, "seemed to have originated with the British tabloid the Daily Mail.Huffington Post removed the story and apologized.
- January 2012: Robert Hart-Fletcher, of the charity Kids and Media, told BeefJack, a gaming magazine, that quotes attributed to him were "completely fabricated" across a range of British media, most prominently the Daily Mail and the BBC.
- April 2012: MailOnline published an article about a dentist who extracted her ex-boyfriend's teeth; the piece was later exposed as a hoax by MSNBC.com. The article appeared under the byline of reporter Simon Tomlinson, who said he does not know where the story came from.
- April 2012: The Christian Science Monitor reported that MailOnline had misused an opinion piece published in Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper and translated into English by Al Arabiya. The original article claimed "Egypt's parliament was considering a piece of legislation sponsored by Islamists to allow men to have sex with their wives after their death." The Daily Mail, according to Monitor staff writer Dan Murphy, "distorted the original claim from a proposal to a done deal: 'Egyptian husbands will soon be legally allowed to have sex with their dead wives', the tabloid claimed, apparently having misunderstood the original Al Arabiya translation."
- October 2012: Actor Nicolas Cage received an apology and damages for a false story in MailOnline about allegations of tax evasion.
- July 2014: The MailOnline admitted having published an entirely false story about George Clooney and the family of his fiancée.
- April 2016: Martin Fletcher wrote in the New Statesman about travelling to Iraq and writing a piece for The Times, then seeing his piece appear on MailOnline under someone else's byline "within five hours".
- April 2017: The Sun threatened MailOnline with legal action over copyright infringement regarding a Sun exclusive video. According to a Sun executive, MailOnline was seen as responsible for blatant "piracy".
- July 2017, The Sun and the MailOnline drew criticism over the online posting of nude photos of Jodie Whitaker, the first female Doctor Who. 
In March 2012, the Poynter Institute published an article criticising the MailOnline for failing to give proper attribution to the sources of some article content, and often reprinting paragraphs without permission or attribution. The article said that when the MailOnline is called out for stealing content, it will sometime removes the text in question without acknowledging or apologising for the problem.
Martin Clarke, editor of MailOnline, said, "We will soon be introducing features that will allow us to link easily and prominently to other sites when further recognition of source material is needed." However, by July 2013, MailOnline articles, including main articles, still did not contain any links to original sources or tips.
In 2015, James King, who left the MailOnline after a year as a reporter, said that the editorial model of the Mail depended on "dishonesty, theft of copyrighted material, and sensationalism so absurd that it crosses into fabrication". King worked as a contractor, and declined a full-time job because he did not want to put his byline on his stories.
In March 2014, MailOnline Sports was named Laureus Sports Website of the Year at the 2014 Sports Journalist Association awards. 2
In December 2013, the MailOnline Android mobile app, Daily MailOnline, was named one of "The Best Apps of 2013" in the UK by the Google Play store.
In 2013, the MailOnline was singled out for a Design Effectiveness Award by the British Design Business Association. Brand42, the British agency that designed the MailOnline, received a Gold and the Grand Prix for the 2008 revamp at the annual Design Business Association's Design Effectiveness Awards. The Grand Prix is the top prize at the awards ceremony and is given to the design project that delivers the greatest commercial benefit.
In 2012, the MailOnline received the chairman's award for Online Media.
In 2012, the Daily Mail and MailOnline won "eight awards, including newspaper of the year, campaign of the year and hat-trick for Craig Brown".
- "I'd like to pay the most enormous tribute to all of the journalists on the Daily Mail and MailOnline, our new very successful, equal partner," Dacre said after accepting the newspaper of the year award.
In 2011, the first year of the Online Media awards, MailOnline won for "Best Brand Development."
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