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Tuesday, May 25, 1999 Published at 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK


The Hall way

Phil Hall: Keeping up circulation at the News of the World

While the fallout of the Lawrence Dallaglio affair continues to settle on a bemused British public, News of the World editor Phil Hall seems almost unfazed.

Phil Hall on BBC Two's Newsnight: "We have a duty to expose drug dealers"
Speaking on Monday's BBC Newsnight programme, Mr Hall calmly rebutted stinging criticisms levelled at himself and the paper.

"This is the sort of investigation that the News of the World has been doing for 150 years," he said, looking almost bored at the fuss which blew up around the scandal.

'Moral crusade'

The Dallaglio story was the latest instalment in a moral crusade - he did not use the term, although it was heavily implied - against drug pushers.

"We have a responsibility to expose drug dealers. [Lawrence Dallaglio] is a man who is looked up to by young people across Britain," he said.

[ image: Mandy Allwood advertising her story in the News of the World]
Mandy Allwood advertising her story in the News of the World
He would expect nothing less of his own staff. Evidence permitting, any journalist on the tabloid paper who uses illegal drugs will be "sacked instantly" he said.

Although he may be perplexed by the attention, Mr Hall knows the furore will not hurt circulation, which, after all, is the ultimate benchmark of his success or failure in the editor's chair.

Since taking the editorship 1995, he has overseen a string of "scoops" which have helped preserve the News of the World's cherished status as Britain's biggest selling newspaper. It currently shifts about 4.3 million copies a week.

Mr Hall has come a long way since his first job in journalism, reporting for the Dagenham Post in 1974. He stayed in Essex, moving to the Ilford Recorder in 1977 and on to the Newham Recorder in 1980 as a sub-editor.

The Allwood story

He moved from production back into reporting, joining the People and then the Sunday Express in 1992 as a news editor. He signed with the News of the World the following year, working as assistant editor and then deputy editor before taking the top job.

In that role he has weathered considerable criticism, particularly when the paper signed up Mandy Allwood, who had become pregnant with octuplets after having fertility treatment.

[ image: Outed: Nick Brown]
Outed: Nick Brown
The contract allegedly stipulated she must not abort any of the embryos, despite concerns for her health and that of her babies. The Solihull mother eventually lost all eight unborn children.

Among other memorable "exclusives" scored by the News of the World during Mr Hall's reign have been the shaming of Newcastle United director's Douglas Hall and Freddie Shepherd, and the story of Roderick Wright, the Roman Catholic bishop who quit after an affair with a divorcee.

Mr Wright, who resigned as the Bishop of Argyll, posed in the paper in a T-shirt with his arm around his mistress.

Last year the paper was widely criticised for "outing" agriculture minister Nick Brown as a homosexual.

Defence claim

Keen never to be seen breaching the reporter's guidelines laid down by the Press Complaint's Council, Mr Hall insists his journalists are working in the "public interest".

He has always defended "chequebook journalism", whereby the paper pays individuals for their stories.

[ image: Earl Spencer: Told Mr Hall to keep away from Diana's funeral]
Earl Spencer: Told Mr Hall to keep away from Diana's funeral
"Every newspaper in the land, be it the Guardian, the Observer or the News of the World pays for stories," he told the journalists' trade paper, the Press Gazette.

In general he is not one for apologies, although in 1997 he dutifully accepted Earl Spencer's decision for all tabloid editors to stay away from the funeral of his sister, Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.

Further evidence that there is perhaps a softer side to the hard newspaperman came in the wake of the Dallaglio scandal when he was probed on Talk Radio.

Referring to Mr Dallaglio's decision to step down from the England rugby side, he said: "I'm a great rugby fan and he's a heroic figure, so I'm full of regrets at this stage."

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