Sunday, 10 July 2011

News of the World: See You Soon!

This morning the News of the World hit the stands for the last time, ending its 168-year history with the headline "Thank You and Goodbye." In a hand-wringing editorial, the News International tabloid apologised for the phone-hacking scandal which has led to its closure. But the row's far from over.

As owner Rupert Murdoch headed to London to take personal charge of the situation, it was reported police would be questioning his top British executive, Rebekah Brooks, as well as bailed Andy Coulson. Meanwhile for Prime Minister David Cameron it's decision-time about who to be chums with.

Inside its final edition the NOTW's greatest moments were listed, from the Fake Sheikh's entrapment investigations to a controversial campaign against paedophiles. But more prominent was the odious, grovelling apology intended to wipe the slate clean in the readership's mind and prepare for the launch of its successor, the Sun On Sunday.

Occasional campaigns for the public good merely provided a smoke-screen for the NOTW's core business: selling tittle-tattle, much of it fictitious, through muck-raking and relentless spying. That's nothing to do with any moral imperative, it's simply about increasing print-runs. Even on the paper's final day, under the pretext of allowing readers to snap up a souvenir an extra two million copies were churned out. After the recent outcry, wouldn't it be ghastly if the public actually bought these.

Clearly News International thinks they will, additional
sales revenue offsetting the recent collapse of the paper's advertising stream. Murdoch's made the best of a bad situation. He's slimmed a sizeable overhead, scared the shit out of his remaining UK employees and - though they may not yet realise it - lined up two expendable senior executives to take the heat if necessary.

Since Brooks and Coulson are close friends of David Cameron, a possible linkage to arm-twisting over
control of broadcaster BSkyB won't have escaped the canny Aussie's notice. In the circumstances a nice bit of business, and everyone loves a story of triumph over tragedy.

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