THE admission by News International that its News of the World had been accessing voicemail messages of the rich and famous, using the information gleaned from that unlawful activity in editorial content, didn’t come as much of a surprise.

During the 60 years I have been a member of the journalistic profession, standards of behaviour have plunged to a level whereby it now seems that nothing stands in the way of a story, especially one which includes a “celeb”.

Tabloid newspapers in the UK exist solely on stories about the lives, real and/or imagined, of people like Katie Price, aka Jordan.

Not all that long ago, with Japan reeling from the terrible, accumulative effects of an earthquake, tsunami and radiation leaks from a stricken nuclear energy plant, and with Libya in the throes of a civil war, one of the red tops led its front page with the latest revelation about Ms Price’s marital shenanigans. God help us.

Phone tapping wasn’t involved on this occasion. Ms Price seems only too willing to disclose information, unpalatable or otherwise, about her life, possibly through her publicity agent, whom I suspect is the ubiquitous Max Clifford. That is her, and his, business. Others in the public eye, less prone to bouts of chest-beating in public, were horrified when details of their private lives appeared in print, obtained, it is now clear, by illegal interception of voicemails.

The fact that senior management of News of The World had been denying knowledge of such spurious behaviour serves to heighten the embarrassment, and deepen the anger, of its owner, Rupert Murdoch, the most powerful media man on the planet.

What it will cost the company in financial compensation is anyone’s guess. A lawyer, speaking on a TV news programme, said thousands of people were now coming forward, claiming to be victims of the paper’s phone hacking. Sadly, I’m not one of them. I have a mobile, but never use it, and must be one of the very few people in the UK who don’t walk around with a cell phone glued to their ear, or looking at and sending text messages.

Whatever, the “News Of The Screws”, as it is labelled among members of the Fourth Estate, will sail on regardless, as long as sport and showbiz personalities are too vain, or too thick, to realise that the hot tottie eager to bed them will be on the phone to Max before the sheets are cold.

Makes you wonder why News of the World journalists bother to grub around, hacking phones, when Wayne Rooney and company do the job for them by regularly tobogganing on to its front page.