Exaro nominated for ‘best investigative journalism’ for exposure of Rupert Murdoch

By Mark Watts | 8 May 2014

“The judges were very impressed with what they saw, but ultimately only the best was nominated” – Online Media Awards

Exaro has been nominated in this year’s Online Media Awards for ‘best campaigning or investigative journalism’.

It was shortlisted for a series that exposed how Rupert Murdoch admitted in a secretly-recorded meeting to knowing for decades that his newspaper journalists were bribing public officials.

We published a full transcript of the 45-minute meeting between Murdoch and nearly two dozen staff from The Sun. The staff had been arrested over allegations of illegal news-gathering practices.

We also uploaded audio extracts of Murdoch’s key comments at the private meeting.

The audio included the final, highly-emotional part of the meeting that left at least one newspaper executive sobbing after a letter from his wife was read out to Murdoch by the newspaper’s agony aunt.

Murdoch also railed against “incompetent” police and judges, as he fumed and repeatedly banged the meeting table.

Exaro worked with Channel 4 News to produce a special report for the news programme, based on short extracts of the recording. We made the short audio extracts available to broadcast media worldwide.

The Murdoch recording was an immediate sensation, with the story followed up in scores of outlets across the globe. Exaro also worked with The Guardian, which reproduced lengthy extracts from the transcript.

Scotland Yard opened a fresh line of enquiry in ‘Operation Elveden’ to investigate Murdoch’s personal knowledge of payments by his journalists to police and other public officials.

The police asked us for copies of the Murdoch recording. We agreed to supply to them the audio extracts that we had already uploaded already on the Exaro website.

In a further leak, we revealed how Murdoch said in a telephone call to David Dinsmore, editor of The Sun, that he felt hurt by the leak of the secret recording. Murdoch felt “betrayed” by his journalists.

As the secret recording made clear, this is how his journalists felt about him after the company handed over to the police huge amounts of internal e-mails and other material that disclosed the identities of confidential sources.

MPs on the culture select committee recalled Murdoch to answer questions about his private comments. The committee later postponed the hearing for fear of prejudicing several forthcoming trials.

Meanwhile, Exaro revealed that Ofcom started to examine the recording to re-assess whether Sky TV, which is part of Murdoch’s media empire, should hold a broadcasting licence in the UK.

Murdoch’s lieutenants feared that the exposure of the secret recording threatened the future of his entire empire.

Three months after the initial disclosure, Exaro revealed a secret recording of another private meeting with arrested staff from The Sun. This time, Tom Mockridge, then News International’s chief executive, was recorded as saying that Murdoch’s UK newspapers face total costs from phone hacking of £1 billion.

Mockridge’s figure was far higher than the $448 million publicly declared by Murdoch’s group at the time as the costs and potential exposure from both phone hacking at the defunct News of the World and the paying of public officials for information by journalists on The Sun.

Again, we published a full transcript of the meeting, which lasted an hour and 10 minutes.

And we uploaded 12 minutes of audio extracts of Mockridge’s comments.

The award winners will be announced at a black-tie ceremony on June 11. The judges said: “This year saw a record number of entries submitted, with the standard all round being extremely high. The judges were very impressed with what they saw, but ultimately only the best was nominated.”

Exaro was shortlisted in the British Journalism Awards 2013 for breaking the ‘best story of the year’ for exposing Murdoch.

And Exaro’s David Hencke was nominated in this year’s Orwell Prize in the journalism category for his role as lead reporter on the series, as well as four pieces on allegations of child sex abuse against senior politicians and other VIPs.

He was named ‘Political Journalist of the Year’ at the previous year’s British Journalism Awards for a series of stories that unveiled the ‘Whitehall tax scandal’.

Update 11 June 2014: Edward Snowden, the whistleblower on surveillance by US and UK spy agencies, beat Murdoch at the award ceremony tonight. The award for ‘best campaigning or investigative journalism’ went to The Guardian for its series of disclosures from Snowden.

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