"There is something about American journalism and its solidity that people just take it more seriously," Rusbridger said. Within a few months of the Times' piece, Coulson resigned as director of communication for Prime Minister David Cameron.
But only one reporter has dogged the story from start to finish — deeply sourced among hacking victims, journalists, lawyers, police and politicians. Davies' associates say he excels because he can comprehend the big political picture but also never forgets the vast trove of small, telling details. He has a common touch that pays off, Rusbridger said, in "doorstep transactions," those few seconds when a reporter can either win over a source or endure a door slammed in the face.
The veteran reporter — who works from his South Coast home, far outside chummy London — finally was able to deliver the emotional haymaker the investigation lacked about a month ago. The scoop told how the relentless News of the World had hacked the phone of Milly Dowler, a missing 13-year-old girl. By deleting some of the girl's messages, the "NotW" operatives gave Dowler's family false hope she might be alive. They also eliminated information that might have aided the police investigation.
The British public — previously somewhat unmoved about hacking of the rich and famous — reacted with fury to the intrusion on the lives of everyday folk. When Rupert Murdoch had to jettison key executives, like flame-haired executive Rebekah Brooks, and to face a parliamentary committee, there was a distinct sense that the world really had shifted.
The final scope of the journalistic villainy remains to be reported. So does the dilemma of how the Guardian will pay for such crackerjack reporting as ad revenue slips away. But a couple of heroes can already be named. In Olde England, might they have dubbed them Nick the Stalwart and Alan the Brave?