What a strong performance by Piers Morgan in his two-and-a-half hour video link from the US yesterday! He stood his ground before the Leveson inquiry as Robert Jay QC peppered him with questions from all angles.
Not everyone loves Piers (see the tweets above) but I believe journalists will recognise as I do that Morgan - editor of News of the World at 28 and later editor of the Mirror - gave it his best shot in staunching the tide of tabloid criticism . He also put in a gutsy last word on the good that the press do.
Here in the the US (I watched Morgan's testimony live on ITN) his new CNN bosses were reportedly concerned a few months back that the tidal wave of odium from the UK could dislodge their Larry King replacement. I think Piers nailed that one
"Performance" is of course the wrong word to describe Morgan's straight- speaking testimony, given under oath. He never played the whimsical cheeky chappy from his US TV show. He was never at any time flustered, frankly admitted errors in his past, said firmly "NO" as to whether he had ever benefited from or used phone hacking and " absolute nonsense" when other questions were put to him which he thought were wide of the mark. And the Mirror never bribed cops.
But you have to wonder with all the talk about black arts why Piers never thought to investigate further.
At times yesterday it seemed as if the whole British newspaper industry was on trial and Piers Morgan was carrying the can.
The most persistent questions centred on who let him hear the hacked phone conversation between Heather Mills and Paul MCartney. He resolutely refused to divulge his source , even refusing to confirm that it was a Mirror staffer.
The judge suggested that Heather herself might be called. I wondered to myself, "Why not Sir Paul".
Morgan talked about reporter Ryan Parry's infiltration of Buck House as a palace footman - saying that it was in the public interest as it exposed a gaping hole in palace security. "He might have been a terrorist."
He rubbished the claims of a Welsh salesman, said by Morgan to be "a sandwich short of a picnic" to have revealed to the Mirror the phone tapping scandal years earlier. The story he claimed was deliberately suppressed . The fact that the man was paid £100 for the unpublished story was par for the course, said Morgan. And he knew nothing about it, "We get around 2000 stories every day and we publish around 100."
At the end of it all, Morgan said his testimony had gone "how I thought it would… like a rock star having an album brought out from his back catalogue of all his worst ever hits."
He asked the judge if he could say just one more thing," I do think there has to be a bit of balance here because a lot of the very good things which newspapers did at that time and continue to do are not being highlighted here at all."
Lord Leveson promised there would be balance in his final report.
*Noel Young is a former editor of the Sunday Mail and has written in both the Drum and the British Journalism Review on the flawed decision to close the News of the World.