Many tabloid haters have dreamed to hear the words, “News of the World
is closing down.”
Those dreams became a reality on Thursday when News International announced that its final issue of the tabloid would be published Sunday, July 10, in a bid to limit the political and commercial repercussions of the phone hacking scandal.
Allegations of phone hacking at the paper have been rife for years. Hacking into celebrity’s phones is pretty low on the scale of journalism ethics, but this time the NOTW
stooped lower than even its most fervent haters could have imagined.
Under the watchful eye of then-editor Rebekah Brooks (who denies all knowledge of such actions), the NOTW
allegedly ordered a private investigator to hack into the mobile telephones of murder victim Milly Dowler, families of murdered children Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, relatives of London bombing victims, and members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty. Messages were apparently deleted to allow room for more “story leads.”
is innocent until proven guilty, it seems apparent that—after paying off celebs such as Sienna Miller in phase one of the scandal—these allegations must have at least a little fire behind the smoke, if not a full-blown furnace.
It seems advertisers feel the same. They have been dropping like flies throughout the week, and Sunday’s final edition will publish with no corporate advertising.
However, despite the hacking claims and falling advertising—not to mention the ruthless reputation of News Corp. CEO and Chairman Rupert Murdoch—the announcement that the paper would close still came as a massive shock to the industry, which is still reeling and will continue to do so for a long time to come.
The News Corp.-owned paper has been in existence for 168 years, employs a staff of more than 200 people, and sells roughly 2.5 million copies a week. You just don’t expect a media institution like the NOTW
—and it is an institution, whether or not you like or agree with its particular style of journalism—to fall, let alone fall so quickly and amid such scandal.
Then again, on closer inspection perhaps it’s not a shock
as much as it is a well-timed business decision—and a clever one at that. Who knows if it would have survived such hideous allegations? This way it doesn’t have to wait and find out.
It’s no secret that News Corp. has an £8 billion bid on the table to buy BSkyB (although reports are in that this is already under threat
). With a price tag that big, there is more at stake than just a U.K. newspaper. No one wants to be associated with such horrendous and inhuman activity, regardless of whether the allegations turn out to be true. Murdoch is well aware of this.
With rumors already spreading that there will be a Sunday version of The Sun
at the newsstands within two weeks one can only wonder what effect, in the long term, this will have on the one thing that it all comes down to—News Corp.’s bottom line. Will one cash cow be replaced swiftly with another?
I think the answer is yes, although perhaps not quite as quickly as some suggest, especially as the story continues to snowball and arrests
are happening even as I’m writing this. Plus, as the saying goes, mud sticks.
Whatever the next steps may be, my thoughts go out to the real victims of the phone hacking scandal; the families whose privacy has been so grossly invaded and the staff who wait with bated breath to see whether they will have jobs to go to or, instead, will be the ones made to take the fall for other people’s mistakes.
Brooke Nolan is a PR professional in Great Britain.