News of the World closes – Sunday Sun mooted

Jul 7, 2011
Nigel Horne

The title was virtually worthless by today so it couldn’t be sold

James Murdoch, chairman of News International and son of Rupert, stunned the media world this afternoon by announcing that the News of the World is to close. This Sunday’s edition will be the last – and any proceeds from the sale of the final edition will go to charity.

On a day that saw more shocking disclosures about phone-tapping and more big advertisers pulling out as a result, Murdoch Jnr said: "The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed to when it came to itself...

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

His chief executive Rebekah Brooks broke the news to the paper’s staff at their offices in Wapping, east London. In doing so, she apparently told them it was the Guardian that was to blame for their demise. The current furore over the paper’s illegal practices began with Monday’s story in the Guardian about Milly Dowler’s voicemail being hacked.

I am told by insiders that the plan is to replace the News of the World with a Sunday edition of its red-top sister, the Sun. How quickly that will be done is not clear. In the current mood, News International would be sure to make even more enemies if it were to simply turn one tap off and another on.

The News of the World was Rupert Murdoch’s first acquisition in Britain, followed by the Sun and then the Times and Sunday Times titles.

Whatever emotional attachment he may have had with the paper has clearly changed to disappointment and rage in recent months - to the point where he was prepared to give up the 168-year-old paper before sacrificing Rebekah Brooks.

Peter Burden, author of the book News of the World? Fake Sheikhs and Royal Trappings, was among those who suspected Murdoch might cut the paper loose by selling it. "But with advertisers running away and the paper’s name mud, the title was virtually worthless by today," he said.

We should have seen today's news coming. Rupert Murdoch is the man who moved his papers in a midnight flit to Wapping in 1986 and sacked all his printers. When Murdoch decides to make a move, he doesn’t hang about.

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