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One particularly well-worn weapon in the tabloid arsenal was payoffs for confidential personal information, often obtained from shady private detectives like Glenn Mulcaire, Goodman’s partner in the phone-hacking campaign who also served jail time.

A 2006 report by the British Information Commissioner’s Office said its investigation of another detective identified 305 journalists at 31 publications involved in the illegal trade of personal information _ including some taken from national police databases or the U.K. vehicle licensing agency.

“Newspapers were continuing to subscribe to an undercover economy devoted to obtaining a wealth of personal information forbidden to them by law,” the report warned.

Phone hacking was widespread too, according to former journalists, although some observers say that tabloids pulled back from their extreme practices after Goodman’s first arrest in 2006.

Paul McMullan, a former News of the World journalist and freelancer, told actor Hugh Grant that other papers, including the popular Daily Mail, hacked phones to get stories.

“They were as dirty as anyone,” he said. “They had the most money.” Grant, taking a page from the newspapers’ playbook, surreptitiously recorded and published the comments.

In a statement, the Mail said its journalists obeyed the law, but declined to give details of past behavior.

Sharon Marshall, another former tabloid journalist, told The New York Times last year that phone hacking occurred everywhere in Britain. “It was an industrywide thing,” she said.

Marshall, through a publicist, declined to be interviewed by the AP. Her 2010 book, “Tabloid Girl,” goes some way toward explaining why journalists might find phone hacking tempting.

In the book, she describes a newsroom culture rife with booze, drugs, expletive-filled shouting matches and faked expense payments to inflate journalists’ salaries.

It was a world where one reporter donned a white lab coat and sneaked into a hospital to snap a picture of a comatose celebrity and another jumped a police cordon to gather material on an accident.

Marshall herself claims to have virtually kidnapped the late British reality television star Jade Goody in a bid to keep her exclusive fresh.

“Knowing that over 4 million people could be reading your words that day is why you do it,” she wrote. “It’s a brilliant feeling of power, of being right at the epicenter of gossip.”

The News of the World called the book “a rip-roaring account” and gave it four stars.