Will the Rotters Keep Hounding Kate?

On Wednesday night I went to see “Corruption” at Lincoln Center. Written by J.T. Rogers and directed by Bartlett Sher, the play unspools the chilling true saga of Rebekah Brooks. With her mop of red Renaissance curls and steely ambition, Brooks became the favorite lieutenant of Rupert Murdoch. She got in trouble more than a decade ago in the phone-hacking scandal in Britain — before she zoomed back to the top of the Murdoch empire. The British newspaper editors and politicians trying to stop the journalistic corruption leaned into The New York Times back then and our reporters Don Van Natta Jr., Jo Becker and Graham Bowley to help them break the story.

Brooks, played by the British actress Saffron Burrows, was the editor of News of the World, and she gives an ode to tabloid journalism in the play. But the moral is about amorality; the story underscores the viciousness and lack of decency of the British tabloids in the hacking scandal.

I thought of that when I watched the video of Princess Kate sitting on a bench amid daffodils, telling her heartbreaking story of a cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy. Cancer is a very personal thing, and how you tell your children is the most personal of all. But the 42-year-old princess is a public figure saddled with an insatiable press corps.

Princess Diana’s sons blame that ravenous behemoth for hounding their mother. “How much more blood will stain their typing fingers before someone can put a stop to this madness?” Harry demanded in a written witness statement in the trial against the Mirror Group Newspapers tabloid publisher last June, about phone hacking and other invasions of privacy.

It is not clear that Kate’s moving statement will satisfy the scorpions of Fleet Street, who are eager to learn what kinds of cancer Kate and King Charles have.

I did a story on the British tabloid reporters and photographers in 1993 when I was covering Wimbledon and they were hot on the trail of rumors about a romance between Barbra Streisand and Andre Agassi. They proudly called themselves Rotters, after the tenacious German dogs Rottweilers.

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