The News of the World, the U.K. tabloid that has run stories about celebrities, sex scandals and murders since the Victorian era, published its final edition after News Corp. decided to shut it amid phone-hacking claims.
The headline of today’s edition, laid over a collage of many of the newspaper’s more noted front pages from its history, was “Thank You & Goodbye.” In the top right corner were the words “The world’s greatest newspaper, 1843-2011.” On page 3, the headline said, “We recorded history and we’ve made history.”
“This is not where we wanted to be and it’s not where we deserve to be,” editor Colin Myler told reporters on leaving the News International headquarters in London’s Wapping neighborhood late yesterday, holding the issue’s front and back pages. “Now in the best traditions of Fleet Street, we’re going to the pub,” he said, referring to the historic address of the British press.
The News of the World, which was published on Sundays and cost 1 pound ($1.61), maintained a reputation for sensational stories since its founding. In the years after World War II the newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. since 1969, sold about 8 million copies a week. It still had Britain’s largest Sunday circulation, with sales of 2.7 million in May.
The sensational scoops that made the tabloid so popular also led to its downfall. The phone-hacking scandal started in 2007 when the News of the World’s former royal reporter, Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, were jailed for illegally accessing voice mails to get stories.
Allegations last week that messages left on a murdered schoolgirl’s mobile phone were also intercepted caused a public outcry that prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to launch an independent inquiry into the matter and may imperil Murdoch’s plan to buy cable-television provider British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. Murdoch arrived at the company’s London offices today, Sky News reported.
The final edition’s editorial stated:
“We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards.
“Quite simply, we lost our way.
“Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry.”
Dad’s Sunday Read
Rachel Mason, a 53-year-old caterer in London, reminisced about the paper’s history in her childhood home.
“It’s a shame personally, because when I was much younger, I remember it would be my dad’s Sunday read,” Mason said. “It was the only paper he read.”
News Corp. announced its decision to close the News of the World on July 7 as the hacking allegations escalated. Companies including Ford Motor Co., Lloyds Banking Group Plc and Wal-Mart Inc.’s Asda chain said they would withdraw advertising.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.
Rebekah Brooks, chief executive officer of News International and editor of the tabloid from 2000 to 2003, said Friday the company will try to find jobs for as many of the paper’s 200 employees as possible. News Corp. left open the possibility of introducing a new Sunday tabloid.
Brooks has said she had no knowledge of hacking during her time as editor of News of the World.
Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who resigned as Cameron’s press chief in January, was arrested on Friday and questioned as part of the probe. He quit as editor of the News of the World in 2007, saying he had no knowledge of the phone-hacking.
“Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not understood or adequately pursued,” said James Murdoch, chairman of News International and Rupert Murdoch’s son, in a letter to employees announcing the closure. “I acknowledge that 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.”
While the paper ran the motto “All human life is there,” below its masthead, its coverage earned it the popular nickname, “News of the Screws.”
George Orwell summed up the attraction of the newspaper in the mid-20th century in his essay “Decline of the English Murder.”
“It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war,” he wrote. “The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about? Naturally, about a murder.”
In 2009, the paper was sued by lawmaker Nigel Griffiths for allegedly hacking into his computer to gain access to photos the member of Parliament took during a sexual liaison in his office with a woman who wasn’t his wife. The front-page story featured pictures of Griffiths in his underwear.
In recent years, the newspaper has concentrated on coverage of celebrities and on sting operations, such as those by undercover investigative reporter Mazher Mahmood, the so-called Fake Sheik, who portrayed a wealthy Arab offering business deals to prominent individuals, then published their revelations.
One of the newspaper’s most prominent recent stories was published in 2008. Max Mosley, then the head of Formula One auto racing’s ruling body, was awarded 60,000 pounds in a privacy case after it published a story saying that a videotaped sex party Mosley participated in had a Nazi theme.
Another story forced the novelist and politician Jeffrey Archer to resign over payments to a prostitute in 1986. He sued another paper for libel over the story and won. In 1999 the News of the World revealed he’d asked a friend to lie for him during the case, and in 2001 Archer was jailed for perjury.
In 2002, under the headline “Harry’s Drugs Shame,” the paper revealed Prince William’s younger brother had smoked dope.
“It’ll leave a big hole in the press,” said Derek Cook, a 50-year-old construction worker. “It was always on the edge, the cusp of having a crack at someone.”
The News of the World was the first national British title to have a woman editor, Wendy Henry, in 1987. Brooks, 43, began her rise through the Murdoch titles there, having joined initially as a secretary.
Dressed as Cleaner
In 1994 she dressed up as a cleaner to sneak into the company’s printing presses and take an early copy of the Sunday Times, which was serializing a biography of Prince Charles.
Rupert Murdoch also bought another British daily, The Sun, in 1969 and turned it into a downmarket tabloid.
Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie’s history of The Sun newspaper, “Stick It Up Your Punter,” describes how the News of the World became Murdoch’s first foray in the British market.
When he made his initial offer for the money-losing title in 1968, he had to arrive at the home of owner Sir William Carr early because Carr “was a drunkard and customarily unfit to do business after 10:30 a.m.,” according to the book.
Having gained control, Murdoch “plunged into every aspect of the business. He worked from a desk commandeered from a secretary, sneering at Sir William’s priceless antique furniture.”