A TOP former News of the World journalist said he was “proud” to have worked for the now-defunct tabloid during a grilling over the phone hacking scandal.
Giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry into press standards, Sunderland-born journalist Neville Thurlbeck defended his work practice during his time at the Sunday paper.
The former chief reporter argued it was in the public interest to publish stories that alleged footballer David Beckham had cheated on his wife and F1 boss Max Mosley had taken part in a “Nazi orgy”.
Mr Thurlbeck, who was fired by News International in September after being arrested on suspicion of phone hacking while working at the newspaper, told the inquiry yesterday that he would not comment on phone hacking.
Instead, he answered questions on the justification of publishing the kiss-and-tell stories, which he claimed were of “huge public interest”.
Mr Thurlbeck added that he had been proud to work for the News of the World.
He told the inquiry: “My experience of the News of the World is that it was highly professional.
“It was staffed by some of the best journalists in Fleet Street, who worked with great diligence.
“I was proud to work alongside all of my colleagues and I had enormous respect for all of them.
“There may have been a small caucus of people who give us a bad reputation now.
“Unfortunately the bulk of those very decent journalists have been tainted by that and are now finding it extremely difficult to get work.”
Mr Thurlbeck is on police bail in relation to the phone hacking allegations and has not been charged.