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Ex-editor testifies about tabloid life

LONDON — When Rebekah Brooks first entered the witness box in the phone-hacking trial, her lawyer reminded the jury that she was not on trial for running Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid papers.

Even so, her testimony over the past two weeks has offered a rare view into the skating-on-the-edge culture of the popular press here, one that fascinates and revolts Britons in equal measure: the hidden recording devices; the six-figure sums paid for exclusive access to the mistresses of celebrities.

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Not to mention the illegal interception of mobile phone voice-mail messages, which Brooks is accused of condoning when she was editor of News of the World, the sensational weekly that Murdoch shut down because of the scandal. Like her six codefendants in the trial, Brooks — who was later promoted to run all of Murdoch’s British newspapers — denies all the charges against her, including paying a public official for information and hiding evidence from police.

Brooks, 45, was questioned about some of the crasser highlights of her career by her own lawyer Wednesday.

Under cross-examination later, she was asked by the prosecutor whether as editor of either tabloid she had ever actually given her journalists the “specific instruction, ‘Do not hack phones.’ ”

“No, that phrase I did not use,” Brooks replied.

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