News of the World Shuts Down Amidst Phone Hacking Scandal

News Corp. announced that Sunday's paper would be the last edition

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After a series of damaging phone hacking allegations this week, News Corp. has decided to shutter the UK tabloid News of the World, The Guardian first reported. This Sunday will be the final issue. Rupert Murdoch's son and News Corp. deputy chief operating officer James Murdoch has issued this statement (reposted in full below):

Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive action with respect to the paper. This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World.

This week alone, as we noted earlier, the alleged list of morbid targets of the News of the World's phone hacking include a murdered girl, victims families of the 7/7/2005 subway bombings, the families of dead soldiers and princess Diana's family's former lawyer. Advertisers had reportedly started ditching the tabloid's pages and British prime minister David Cameron set up a public inquiry in response to the phone hacking allegations.

The 168 year-old Sunday paper which Rupert Murdoch purchased in 1969 is the first national newspaper to be shuttered by News Corp. since 1995 when Today was closed down, noted The Guardian. Currently filling the homepage on the News of the World's website are letters to colleagues from editor Colin Myers, News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and the statement from Rupert Murdoch.

Going forward, one key question is whether shuttering the paper will do enough to stave off revelations that The New York Times said were enough "to stain the company's image in a way that other embarrassing incidents...have not." In an instant view, Reuters spoke with Westminister University professor Steven Barnett, who uttered his shock at the employees who will lose their jobs and noted that it could merely be a move to take the pressure off the resignation calls:

"It could just be a fairly cynical ploy and there will be a new News International Sunday newspaper. It could well be that three months down the line the scandal's calmed down a bit and they launch a new Sunday tabloid."

UPDATES: Since the announcement was made, we've noticed:

  • Former World editor Andy Coulson has been told by police that he'll be arrested, reports The Guardian, which adds that "a second arrest is also to be made in the next few days of a former senior journalist at the paper."
  • From the family of the murdered girl, Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked: "It was individuals who were doing this. Rebekah Brooks was still the editor at the time, and she is still employed by the company," reads a statement to the BBC.
  • Report: Rebekah Brooks said to have offered resignation last night but was turned down, says writer for Sky News, Neal Mann, in multiple tweets after speaking with a source.
  • News Corp. has seen its stock tick up 1.5 percent writes News Corp. newspaper The Wall Street Journal via Ben Smith.
  • Prime minister David Cameron's first statement: "His spokesman simply says 'what matters is that all wrongdoing is exposed and those responsible for these appalling acts are brought to justice,'" reports the BBC.
  • World editor Colin Myer was given 10 minutes warning that the paper would be closed down, according to a tweet by a UK Observer journalist Elizabeth Day and relayed by Vanity Fair contributor Sarah Ellison (who wrote Vanity Fair's excellent, lengthy investigation into the allegations in June).
  • A glance at the Twitter fight among News of the World staffers, by The Guardian. From TV editor Tom Latchem: "Thanks for all your kind words all – we will all survive, nobody died. Viva NOTW!!"
  • It's as "if a nuclear bomb had gone off" was the way that David Wooding, political editor at the News of the World, described the newsroom today to the BBC. "Everyone was standing around looking dazed. Everyone kept saying - how could it get any worse?"
  • The domain name was registered a mere two days ago tweets Emma Keller, relaying an observation by Chris Moran at The Guardian.
  • The New York Times updated their "Anatomy of a Scandal" infographic about the phone hacking saga, a good primer on what has happened since Murdoch purchased the paper in 1969.

The Guardian points to the full statement from News Corp, which is here (annotated here) and reposted below.

News International today announces that this Sunday, 10 July 2011, will be the last issue of the News of the World.

Making the announcement to staff, James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, News Corporation, and Chairman, News International said:

“I have important things to say about the News of the World and the steps we are taking to address the very serious problems that have occurred.

It is only right that you as colleagues at News International are first to hear what I have to say and that you hear it directly from me. So thank you very much for coming here and listening.

You do not need to be told that The News of the World is 168 years old. That it is read by more people than any other English language newspaper. That it has enjoyed support from Britain’s largest advertisers. And that it has a proud history of fighting crime, exposing wrong-doing and regularly setting the news agenda for the nation.

When I tell people why I am proud to be part of News Corporation, I say that our commitment to journalism and a free press is one of the things that sets us apart. Your work is a credit to this.

The good things the News of the World does, however, have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong. Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our Company.

The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself.

In 2006, the police focused their investigations on two men. Both went to jail. But the News of the World and News International failed to get to the bottom of repeated wrongdoing that occurred without conscience or legitimate purpose.

Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued.

As a result, the News of the World and News International wrongly maintained that these issues were confined to one reporter. We now have voluntarily given evidence to the police that I believe will prove that this was untrue and those who acted wrongly will have to face the consequences.

This was not the only fault.

The paper made statements to Parliament without being in the full possession of the facts. This was wrong.

The Company paid out-of-court settlements approved by me. I now know that I did not have
a complete picture when I did so. This was wrong and is a matter of serious regret.

Currently, there are two major and ongoing police investigations. We are cooperating fully
and actively with both. You know that it was News International who voluntarily brought
evidence that led to opening Operation Weeting and Operation Elveden. This full
cooperation will continue until the Police’s work is done.

We have also admitted liability in civil cases. Already, we have settled a number of
prominent cases and set up a Compensation Scheme, with cases to be adjudicated by
former High Court judge Sir Charles Gray. Apologising and making amends is the right
thing to do.

Inside the Company, we set up a Management and Standards Committee that is working
on these issues and that has hired Olswang to examine past failings and recommend
systems and practices that over time should become standards for the industry. We have
committed to publishing Olswang’s terms of reference and eventual recommendations in a
way that is open and transparent.
We have welcomed broad public inquiries into press standards and police practices and
will cooperate with them fully.

So, just as I acknowledge we have made mistakes, I hope you and everyone inside and
outside the Company will acknowledge that we are doing our utmost to fix them, atone for
them, and make sure they never happen again.

Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive
action with respect to the paper.

This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World.

Colin Myler will edit the final edition of the paper.

In addition, I have decided that all of the News of the World’s revenue this weekend will go to good causes.

While we may never be able to make up for distress that has been caused, the right thing to do is for every penny of the circulation revenue we receive this weekend to go to organisations – many of whom are long-term friends and partners – that improve life in Britain and are devoted to treating others with dignity.

We will run no commercial advertisements this weekend. Any advertising space in this last edition will be donated to causes and charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers.

These are strong measures. They are made humbly and out of respect. I am convinced they are the right thing to do.

Many of you, if not the vast majority of you, are either new to the Company or have had no connection to the News of the World during the years when egregious behaviour occurred.

I can understand how unfair these decisions may feel. Particularly, for colleagues who will
leave the Company. Of course, we will communicate next steps in detail and begin
appropriate consultations.

You may see these changes as a price loyal staff at the News of the World are paying for the transgressions of others. So please hear me when I say that your good work is a credit to journalism. I do not want the legitimacy of what you do to be compromised by acts of others. I want all journalism at News International to be beyond reproach. I insist that this organisation lives up to the standard of behaviour we expect of others. And, finally, I want you all to know that it is critical that the integrity of every journalist who has played fairly is restored.

Thank you for listening.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.