Rebekah Brooks (née Wade, born 27 May 1968) is a British journalist and newspaper editor. She is chief executive of News International, having previously served as the youngest editor of a British newspaper as editor of the News of the World (from 2000 to 2003) and the first female editor of The Sun (from 2003 to 2009). She married actor Ross Kemp in 2002 (without taking his surname); in 2009 they divorced, and she married former racehorse trainer and author Charlie Brooks.
In 2011, she was a prominent figure in the News of the World phone hacking affair, having been the editor when a number of illegal phone hackings were allegedly carried out by the newspaper.
Brooks grew up in Daresbury, Cheshire, and decided she wanted to be a journalist from the age of fourteen.After attending Appleton Hall County Grammar School in Warrington, she worked for the French magazine L’architecture d’aujourd’hui in Paris, before returning to Britain to work for Eddy Shah’s Messenger Group. In Brooks’ entry in Who’s Who she stated that she studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, but did not claim to have a degree, and did not later answer questions about this; it has been suggested that, since she was working at the age of 20 for the News of the World, “we can safely assume that she did not study at the Sorbonne in any meaningful way”.
She joined the Sunday newspaper News of the World in 1989 as a secretary, before working as a feature writer for its ‘Sunday’ magazine, and eventually becoming the paper’s deputy editor. “In 1994, she prepared for the News of the World’s interview with James Hewitt, a paramour of Princess Diana, by reserving a hotel suite and hiring a team to “kit it out with secret tape devices in various flowerpots and cupboards”, Piers Morgan, her former boss and now a CNN talk show host (and ABC talent-show judge}, wrote in his memoir The Insider”, the New York Times relayed in July, 2011. In 1998 she transferred to the News of the World’s daily counterpart, The Sun, where she was appointed its deputy editor. In this period, she reportedly attempted to persuade David Yelland to end the Page Three Girls feature. She then returned to the News of the World in 2000 as editor; at the time, she was the youngest editor of a national British newspaper.
While at the News of the World, she oversaw its controversial campaign of “naming and shaming” convicted child sex offenders, after the murder of Sarah Payne. The paper’s decision led to angry mobs terrorising those they suspected of being child sex offenders, which included several cases of mistaken identity and one instance where a paediatrician had her house vandalised, apparently by people who misunderstood her occupational title to be the same as paedophile. The campaign was labelled “grossly irresponsible” journalism by the then Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, Tony Butler, but Brooks defended the paper’s actions in a rare interview on the BBC’s Breakfast with Frost, stating that it was “only right that the public have controlled access” to information on sex offenders. The paper’s already strong sales held up well under her leadership, while those of rival Sunday newspapers The People and the Sunday Mirror fell more sharply.
In January 2003 she returned to The Sun, replacing her former boss David Yelland, to become its first female editor. On Brooks’ first day as editor the Page Three girl was Rebekah Parmar-Teasdale – the caption to the picture was “Rebekah from Wapping”. Soon after becoming editor, Brooks ran the headline “Bonkers Bruno Locked Up” concerning the mental health problems of former heavyweight boxing champion Frank Bruno. The next day The Sun ran a 600-word reply from the head of the mental health charity Sane, and since then has adopted a style guide on covering mental health stories prepared by the same charity. Brooks and her husband spent a day with the head of Sane and made donations to the charity.
During a March 2003 appearance before the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport as part of an inquiry into privacy issues, Brooks stated that her newspaper had paid police officers for information. Alison Clark, the director of corporate affairs at News International, later stated: “It is not company practice to pay police for information”.
Brooks has been chairman of the organisation Women in Journalism, and has served as a judge for the “Guardian Student Media Awards” in November 2003 and the tenth annual Police Bravery Awards in July 2005, the latter of which was sponsored by The Sun.
In June 2009 it was announced that she would leave The Sun in September 2009 to become chief executive of the newspaper’s parent company, News International. Dominic Mohan was named her successor as editor of The Sun.