THERE WAS much revelry and mutual congratulation at Dublin’s Sugar Club to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sunday Worst in conjunction with Nicola Tallant’s Crime World event. “To celebrate we are looking back over some of the front page stories, scandals with the big name journalists who made it the People’s Paper”, was how the paper flagged the recent event. Well, not quite all the big-name journalists were included. There was much talk about the absence – exclusion, actually – of perhaps the most acclaimed Worst hack that ever graced its pages, namely ace cops ‘n’ robbers hack Paul Williams.
Williams was the tabloid crime reporter par excellence and became the cutting edge of the newspaper’s agenda for 20 years until 2010, taking on the scumbags, terrorists and assorted vermin that dominated Ireland’s mean streets. But as one of the best-paid hacks in tabloid journalism at €170,000, Williams was made an offer he couldn’t refuse from the News of the Screws (€250,000 plus expenses). While he sat down to negotiate a renewed contract with the Worst for some months in 2009, it could not match the offer from Rupert Murdoch’s title.
When Williams took Murdoch’s shilling in 2010, the Worst went to the High Court to force him to give three months’ notice of his departure. In an act of retaliation, the Screws positioned four cyclists in Dublin city centre, each with the slogan: “Follow Paul Williams to the News of the World”. This novel form of negative advertising went on for three days across the road from Independent House (then owners of the Worst) in Talbot Street (see The Phoenix 23/4/10).
Despite Williams’ abandonment being many years ago, Worst management has clearly neither forgotten nor forgiven him and he was effectively airbrushed from 50 years of ground-breaking Irish journalism on the night, although not all hacks present were impressed with such begrudgery.