By Paul Gillin | July 7, 2011 - 1:02 pm - Posted in Best/Worst, Business News, Journalism, Layoffs, Murdoch, Newspapers, R.I.P.

News of the World Front PageIn a stunning example of corporate overreaction, News Corp. today announced that it will shut down Britain’s largest Sunday newspaper amid a growing scandal over voicemail hacking.

The 168-year-old News of the World, which boasts a Sunday circulation of 2.5 million, will publish its last edition on July 10. The move comes as outrage in Britain reached a fever pitch over allegations that the tabloid had illegally accessed and even deleted voice mail messages on the phone of a 13-year-old girl who was kidnapped and later found murdered.

Allegations of phone hacking are nothing new for the tabloid. Reports of reportorial excess have swirled around News of the World for two years. However, public anger and advertiser boycotts grew this week amid allegations that as many as 4,000 people have been victimized by such tactics, including relatives of terrorist attack victims and soldiers killed in combat.

Milly DowlerThe tipping point came with reports this week that hired investigators had not only hacked into the phone of 13-year-old Milly Dowler (left) but also deleted some of the voicemails, giving her parents false hope that the girl was still alive. James Murdoch, the heir apparent to the Rupert Murdoch empire, issued a statement saying such a practice – if it occurred –  “was inhuman and has no place in our company.”

Analysts speculated that the decision to shutter the News of the World and lay off 200 employees was made by the younger Murdoch and supported by his dad, although such drama has not been typical of the elder statesman. Skeptics saw more nefarious motives.

Specifically, they questioned why News Corp. didn’t demand the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and editor of News of the World at the time the allegations first surfaced. Brooks is a Murdoch confidante, and critics suggested that the jobs of 200 people had been sacrificed to preserve hers.

The scandal also broke as News Corp. neared the final stages of its bid for BSkyB,  the largest pay-TV broadcaster in the United Kingdom, with over 10 million subscribers, according to Wikipedia. Critics suggested that the cloud created by the News of the World allegations could have jeopardized Murdoch’s bid.

Writing in the Telegraph¸ Harry Wallop quotes politicians and media commentators speculating that an even more cynical business objective was involved. News Corp. had already announced plans to move to a seven-day-a-week publishing schedule across its four UK titles: the Sun, News of the World, the Times and the Sunday Times. The expansion could  potentially create internal competition across the News Corp. properties. Eliminating one title may have little impact on revenues as advertisers simply migrate their business to other holdings within the portfolio.

Whatever the motives, the decision strikes us as a massive overreaction. Scandals like this are usually addressed by a few high-level resignations and some corporate self-flagellation. It could be that the timing was simply bad for News Corp., but depriving 200 people of their livelihoods – and a couple of million Brits of their weekly celebrity scandals – strikes us as a bit over the top.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2011 at 1:02 pm and is filed under Best/Worst, Business News, Journalism, Layoffs, Murdoch, Newspapers, R.I.P.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

5 Comments

  1. July 9, 2011 @ 4:30 pm



    This not a story about the advance of technology, its one of Rupert Murdoch getting his dick ground up in the gears of the scurrilous and sordid machinations operant at the News of the World.

    It was the result of some solid, dogged (because it was a competitor,) reporting by the Guardian.

    In this case the NotW is dying a well deserved death. Some of those involved deserve prison, not least for abrogating their journalistic professionalism, all of them deserve being barred from ever writing again and the last thing to be printed by the NofW before shutting the doors must be a public apology.

    As far as I am concerned the things that were criminal deserve to be brought to trial.

    The tabloid industry deserves the monitoring it will get.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  2. July 10, 2011 @ 4:53 am



    Across the pond it may seem to be an overreaction, but less so closer to home in the UK.

    There is for the issue of police corruption, paying money to the police for information.
    Paying money to official, civil servants, in exchange for special favours, is considered
    corruption in almost any country, and it is a serious criminal offence. And this is just
    one issue.
    John Yates, the assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard, has his reasons when he
    expresses regrets of not investigating seriously earlier:

    “Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates has expressed his “extreme regret” for the decision not to reopen the police investigation into phone hacking two years ago. …”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/09/john-yates-massive-regret-phone-hacking-investigation

    Posted by Joe
  3. July 11, 2011 @ 8:43 am



    my gosh…is it possible to know when you`re gonna die –http://smierc.org

    Posted by pawbar
  4. July 11, 2011 @ 2:30 pm



    [...] the risk of beating the News of the World scandal to death, we’ll just point out a couple of other news items that hit our inbox over the [...]

  5. July 15, 2011 @ 8:25 am



    Tabloids and the paparazzi give the media a bad name.. this scandal is insane.