Heroes and Legacy: My own experience with the News of the World. Part Two

continued from HERE

For anyone interested in how the News of the World got the original story, Keith Gladdis had come to see me, posing as a client.

He had sent an e-mail asking if he could bring some cocaine, which I had not responded to.

Gladdis asked me to dance on the bed whilst he sat on a chair, his suitcase over his lap.

I actually offered him his money back, as he hadn’t “done” anything I’m a rubbish capitalist. He asked if I would meet him for dinner and I said sure but don’t worry you don’t need to pay for the time then.

I actually felt sorry for him as he seemed so tense, it’s nice to do something for someone who seems in need if it’s no hassle. I wonder if he’d been arguing with Caroline?

That was a weekday, I think.

Saturday night, one of his colleagues turned up where I lived – the exits and entrances of the building I lived in was surrounded by several of them, in cars.

She claimed there was lots of filmed footage out there and “someone” had it and it was definitely going to go to other newspapers.

She said if I signed a contract with the News of the World at least I’d get some money and have some control over the way the story was presented.

This was incorrect: Keith Gladdis was a News of the World employee who had come specifically to secretly film me.

I was working in the sex industry under an assumed name and do not know how he obtained this information. That was the only “filmed footage” around.

The News of the World timed it so a group of reporters would surround me late on Saturday, and the first story would come out on a Sunday morning: the timing seemed designed so I could not seek advice.

They changed the story several times.

(I got the impression they wanted me to put my name to a “tell-all” thing on Oxford and my family and friends so I lied lots instead).

By the time the final News of the World piece came out I didn’t actually care, I knew I couldn’t deal with it there and then, had to get myself some space.

If I could turn back time, I would have contacted a lawyer and a police when they came round,  perhaps I would have got an injunction.

I suspect the News of the World thought I’d be too ashamed by the experience to ever speak out against them.

I’d have lots of people thinking she signed a contract and got paid and doesn’t look upset on camera so it looks like she set the whole thing up. 

After publishing their own piece, the News of the World supplied a photo of me to a magazine.

The magazine presented a made-up story as another interview Sufiah agreed to do for money, knowing I was in hiding and would not take legal action.

The News of the World seemed keen to create the impression I was doing the rounds intentionally publicising myself and the original piece was done with my consent.

At this stage I was receiving many, many, e-mails from journalists and TV producers.

At the time, the one I was angriest at was from a producer called Miranda Peters.

She had been working closely with Martin Bashir when he stalked me and fed me lies in order to coerce an interview for Tonight With Trevor McDonald. I had just turned 16.

Miranda Peters got her researcher, Harriet Matthews, to e-mail me to suggest a “reunion” with her.

Harriet Matthews is now a producer herself.

I note her Linkedin profile includes:

“Successfully sourcing people willing to let us film them whilst using illegal substances- cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis (without being pixilated)”.

“Locating and persuading potential contributors in Egypt, China and Sri Lanka, who had previously been arrested or threatened by their governments for internet activities, to take part in interviews.”

Another producer claimed Channel 4 were already making a documentary, so I might as well let him follow me and film me for a month.

To be fair to Channel 4, the e-mail trail (accidentally forwarded to me) said nothing of the kind. It was clear the producer was misrepresenting their intentions.

(this style of contact is not uncommon from members of the Press, by the way).

I couldn’t have felt more powerless, and the impression I was getting was

look, we’ve got our eye on you now. You may as well join in with us and we’ll film you commenting on others. And after that you won’t ever be able to criticise us, because you’ll be one of us.“.

A dilemma which I wasn’t alone in.

As the Leveson Inquiry showed, many people have had this: they feel forced into granting interviews or taking part in the industry themselves in order to avoid more unexpected harassment.

Anne Diamond at Leveson made a thought-provoking point: it seems internalised now that this is how things “are” in the UK, but when did this become the norm? 

There are times I’ve felt guilty for not managing my own encounters with the media better (if only I had called a lawyer at such-and-such a moment, etc, etc). Guilt is such a corrosive emotion.

But I’ve never been able to imagine a country in which they just didn’t act the way they did in the first place?

I just assume I have to be careful with my details.

Before starting this blog I needed a strong protection/anti-stalking strategy in place.

It’s fine if someone wants to write “I don’t like or approve of Sufiah Yusof” – free speech is great, I have no desire to be someone everyone likes and approves of.

But that’s not the way the Press operates.

Their attitude is “right, how can I manipulate, blackmail her into doing something that looks consensual and is designed to make us look like we’re completely independent and objective?

Even the police have told me in the past “they won’t stop just because we tell them, you need to give them something.

Until it was clear some people were starting to visibly fight back (and I’m sure there were so, so many unknown efforts before then) the dominant attitude was “it’s the media, everyone knows what they are like and no-one can do anything about it. You need to co-operate with them. It’s YOUR responsibility to manage them.”

Anyway. I was asked to comment on another woman. I sent an e-mail to the News International journalist, single word: “No”.

That night, I worried about whether they’d send someone to track me down, take a photo, and then (again) make something I’d said up.

Whatever action I took, I could still be manipulated into looking like I’d done something I hadn’t, with no immediate recourse.

Defiance might be pointless, but I did it anyway.

It was a very, very, unhappy night: I look back on it and I feel fond of myself.

Worst of nights can be the best of nights.

Someone posed this question, which I found interesting:

Why does the Press go to all this hassle to get real people to do what they want?

Why don’t they just get actors and models (and even porn stars) to pose and be filmed and make stories up about them?

The issue for the Press: as individual human beings, a lot of them are stuck: they’re involved, implicated.

The males aren’t men and the females aren’t women.

They are ashamed of their actions, and don’t have a way to finish their story gracefully, or the courage to switch directions.

I think that’s where the real people come in.

Much of the Press needs the real people, as supply. They are incapable of having authentic human feelings. They have lost or never had any sense of genuine identity: they are broken inside.

People are either enemies to transfer their shame and aggression onto and punish, or “things” they can use to set themselves up as heroes.

They are incomplete, on a never-ending quest for something to save them or redeem them.

They need to feed off the emotions and authenticity of others. They want to make others like them to validate their own actions.

That’s the legacy of Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre: they made their own employees unable to emotionally operate, except in a shrinking, twisted, alternative universe.

They took away their sense of self: they used them and left them as stunted children.

John Junor to Peter Dacre to Paul Dacre.

Murdoch to Harper-Collins to the children of China. The cycle continues.

The unsung heroes and martyrs and champions of free speech label is the last resort to think of themselves well.

Is there a way out that allows everyone to save face, I wonder?

Because at the moment, I do believe the fight is not between press freedom and press regulation, but for a way for the Press to recover some dignity and justify their past lives.

by Sufiah Yusof