Giant's demise rattles UK media

2011-07-08 10:58

London - Britain's press on Friday mourned the passing of scandal-hit comrade the News of the World, but long-term foes were at a loss to explain Rupert Murdoch's "baffling and perverse" decision to shut the paper.

News International stablemate The Times led the eulogy and was joined by most of Fleet Street in condemning the "handful of people" who felled the 168-year-old giant after they hacked into the phones of high-profile figures.

"Yesterday a little bit of England died, and it is a moment to mourn," the Times said in its editorial. "At their best they produced great stories, and sometimes exposed great wrongs."

The News of the World was beset by phone-hacking claims after one of its journalists and a private investigator were jailed in 2007 when it was found they had intercepted messages sent to members of the royal household.

The extraordinary decision to pull the plug came at the end of week in which it was revealed that the paper also targeted the relatives of war dead, murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and possibly victims of the London bombings.

"A handful of people have trampled upon others in grief and despair," continued the Times. "They have shamed themselves, destroyed a newspaper and damaged trust in the free press."

Scourge of celebrities

The Daily Mail ran with the front-page headline "The Paper that Died of Shame", and bemoaned the "downfall of a fine British institution" while the Daily Telegraph opted for "Goodbye, cruel World" on its front page.

News International tabloid The Sun, which is reported to be producing a new Sunday edition to replace its stricken sister paper, carried the story on its front page for the first time, but still refrained from editorial comment.

The News of the World was the scourge of misbehaving public figures during its long history, and thrived on feeding Britain's insatiable appetite for tittle-tattle and racy scandal.

However, few tears will have been shed at the Guardian - the country's leading left-leaning paper - which alone continued to keep the story high on its news agenda after the original revelations broke.

Any jubilation at helping to snare its ideological rival - the publication broke the Dowler revelations on Tuesday - was masked by suspicion over the true reasons for Murdoch's monumental decision.

"It's baffling," said editor Alan Rusbridger. "No one called for the News of the World to be closed, it seems perverse."

The paper's editorial added: "That Rupert Murdoch is ruthless is a universally acknowledged truth.

"But his action in killing off the 168-year-old News of the World was one of the most clinical moves in his long, tumultuous career. Some would go further and say that it was one of his most cynical," it added.

  • Dominic - 2011-07-08 11:54

    Skeletons in the closets? To make such a radical move seems a desperate attempt to kill the story and stop people looking.

  • Yemi Raven - 2011-07-08 12:06

    The News Of The World was a tabloid in the worst sense of the word - blatant lies, populist celebrity-sex-scandal-trash, inciting hatred towards immigrants (like almost all British tabloids), preying on the vulnerable, putting lies in headlines and hoping that income from the mindless masses who swallowed the sh*t would cover the costs of libel action. The list goes on and on. It wasn't a newspaper or a 'respected peer' that should be mourned, it was a cancer and a stain on journalism, and closing it down will make the world a better place. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Unfortunately, the cynic in me says that it was just a quick and dirty PR-stunt from Murdoch, who will make up for the lost income by simply creating a substitute paper where the 'innocent' staff from Screws Of The World will find a new home to peddle their trash.

      Dominic - 2011-07-08 13:29

      Must admit that when I went to UK I was shocked by the crappy newspapers there (as you describe). I'd assumed they'd be better than the South African ones. I was so wrong. People I asked said the rot started once Murdoch dominated. People read his crap and then it becomes a part of their consciousness. He has way too much power.

  • M. Khoza - 2011-07-08 22:31

    and let this be a lesson for our South African news centers- don't feed us with sensationalized bullsh1t because it will catch up with you

  • Riaan - 2011-07-09 06:10

    It is time they close Rupert Murdoch down. Just another over rich tyrant.

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