The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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No hacking at the N.Y. Post, says former N.Y. Post hack

August 11, 2011 |  2:36 pm

New York Post's Jared Paul Stern denies hacking at paper
Jared Paul Stern certainly doesn’t have the warm fuzzies for his old employer, the New York Post. The one-time contributor to the Page Six gossip column was driven out of the tabloid after accusations, never proven, that he tried to extort money to keep one high-profile magnate out of the headlines.

But despite his estrangement from his former employer, Stern said in an interview this week that he doubts Rupert Murdoch’s rambunctious  U.S. publication has employed the phone hacking and police payoffs that were endemic at its British cousin, the now-shuttered News of the World.

“Their whole game is more sort of intimidating people or cozying up to people to get information,” Stern said the other day of gossip reporters at the Post. In more than a decade contributing to Page Six he said he never saw or heard of phones being improperly accessed. The only payments, minimal ones, went to public relations types who acted as virtual stringers for Page Six, Stern said.

Not that Stern attributes the failure to employ the so-called “dark arts” on any particularly high motives on the part of Post gossip writers.

“They couldn’t hack an electric toothbrush there,” Stern said. “There are no techno-whizzes to figure it out and they don’t have anything like the budget of those British papers. The Post hemorrhages money. They don’t have the budget for any extras.”

The Post has been reported to lose tens of millions of dollars a year. News Corp. leader Murdoch is said to keep the paper going because of his love of tabloids and because of the political leverage it gives him in America’s biggest city.

Stern experienced a brief and unwanted celebrity in 2006 when one-time supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, a close friend of former President Clinton, accused the tabloid reporter of trying to pry money out of him in exchange for keeping Burkle out of the Post.

Burkle videotaped a couple of his meetings with Stern and federal prosecutors investigated the case as a possible extortion before deciding not to file charges against Stern. The writer subsequently sued Burkle, Clinton and others, claiming that they had tried to ruin his reputation. A judge tossed the lawsuit out.

Now Stern said he is working on various projects, though he declined to go into much detail. His website on style had new entries as recently as this summer. And he suggests that his proposed memoir on life in the tabloid lane, dropped by one publisher, might have new life given the scandals sweeping the industry.

“The stuff going on now is breathing some new life into it, so I am reworking it,” Stern said of the book. “It definitely has a lot more relevance and appeal.”


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-- James Rainey

Photo: One-time New York Post gossip writer Jared Paul Stern, who contributed to the paper's Page Six column, said he never heard of phone hacking or big-money payoffs while he worked for the tabloid. The paper's British cousin, News of the World, was closed after its use of the "dark arts" caused a scandal in Britain. Credit:  Shiho Fukada / Associated Press.