Sun Chief Executive Wants To Get Rid Of Tony Gallagher For Running Ross Barkley Column. Rupert Murdoch Backed Gallagher After ‘Smiles at Christmas’ Humiliation.
By Graham Johnson
Editor, Byline Investigates
BYLINE BLOWS the lid on vicious in-fighting at News UK’s London HQ – involving Rebekah Brooks
In previous instalments, our probe into The Sun exposed how senior journalists allegedly used a private investigator to target a cancer patient’s medical records.
Byline can now reveal a detailed timeline of Kelvin MacKenzie’s sacking – and Rebekah Brooks’ moves to undermine her own editor Tony Gallagher.
Our probe tries to find out who oversaw the publication of MacKenzie’s column and who is telling the truth. Gallagher has denied sanctioning the column but senior Sun staff have said he saw the page proofs.
Autumn 2016 – Rebekah Brooks began to lose faith with Sun Editor Tony Gallagher
November 2016 – The first signs of Brooks’ major disquiet over Gallagher came when she insisted on him running a charity campaign last Christmas.
Brooks unexpectedly attended a Christmas planning meeting of the features department and demanded to know what campaigns they were running for Christmas.
Brooks felt strongly that the Sun needed a campaign to soften the paper’s image.
She wanted to take the heat out of the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which has been urging leading advertisers to boycott The Sun.
Gallagher was not at the features meeting but Brook’s was dismayed that his team had no big Christmas campaign in the pipeline.
She ordered staff to prepare one at once – a big snub to the Editor, who would normally initiate any big series.
The result was The Sun’s ‘Smiles at Christmas’ campaign to raise money and presents for four kids’ charities.
A source close to News UK said: ‘That was basically Rebekah going to Gallagher:
“You’re too Daily Mail
“You’ve lost the fun.
“You’ve lost the caring side of The Sun.
“It’s all just Dacre spite.”
‘She just humiliated him.
‘This was her (Brooks) turning on Gallagher.’
December 8th 2016 – In a civil case at The High Court, involving claimants who allege their phones have been hacked by The Sun, an old letter of resignation from Kelvin Mackenzie is shown to the judge.
Mackenzie told the then News International boss, Rebekah Brooks, and her sidekick Dominic Mohan, he was quitting as a columnist in 2011 because he thought they had kept the full extent of phone hacking from him.
This email looked bad for Brooks and her disquiet with Mackenzie grew.
Spring 2017 – Open fissures appeared in The Sun newsroom.
Freelancers reported that some members of the news desk are no longer 100 % loyal to Gallagher and show a decided lack of interest in his ‘specials.’
Early April 2017 – Gallagher went on holiday
The source said: ‘He was 100 per cent back and editing the paper though, the following week.
‘He was emphatically in work when the Ross Barkley column went out.
Thursday April 13th 2017 – Our source claims that Gallagher was witnessed at the back-bench in the Sun newsroom where he read some of Mackenzie’s copy and laughed at the jokes. Gallagher has denied this.
The back-bench is the name given to a key editorial desk in a newsroom where senior sub-editors, production staff and management oversee construction of page proofs – the lay-outs that will later be published in the newspaper or posted online.
Gallagher’s account differs, according to our source. Gallagher claims that he didn’t see the proofs.
Our source denies knowing if CCTV footage has been reviewed as part of a management internal investigation.
Members of the back bench and the Sun’s managing editor Paul Clarkson read the proof of MacKenzie’s column and raised concerns that it would open old wounds in Liverpool.
He was contacted and asked to tone down the piece on Ross Barkley.
He refused and the column went in unchanged.