News Corp. Closing Beleaguered ‘News of the World’

Rupert Murdoch's tabloid destroyed by hacking scandal

Editors' note: This is a breaking story, and is being continuously updated as news warrants.

The latest revelations in the ongoing News Corp. phone hacking scandal were apparently too much for the company to bear: It announced Thursday that it has decided to close its News of the World tabloid, the largest circulation English-language paper in the world, which is at the center of the scandal. 

Sunday's edition of the paper will be its last, James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, said. The revenue from the issue, which will contain no advertising, will go to "good causes."

On Twitter, Kevin Rawlinson of the U.K.'s Independent newspaper reports, "All the staff [of News of the World] have been let go. People crying at their desks." Editor Colin Myler was reportedly given only 10 minutes' notice that his paper was going to be shuttered. 

Early speculation in the U.K., both from journalists and from politicians generally opposed to Rupert Murdoch, suggests that the closure might be a rebranding move in disguise, with fellow News Corp. tabloid The Sun launching a Sunday edition to replace the News of the World. An email to subscribers of that went out Thursday certainly seems to leave open that possibility, as—rather than simply promising cancelations and refunds—it says, "Over the coming days, we will work through the implications of this announcement for our customers and subscribers, and will communicate with you directly as soon as we know more."

A statement from News International, the News Corp. subsidiary that owns News of the World, contains details from James Murdoch's announcement of the decision to staff. In that announcement, Murdoch said, "The good things the News of the World does 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."

Murdoch also addressed the company's history of denying the full extent of the hacking, and his complicity in that, saying, "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."

He also addressed the News of the World employees who will be out of a job as a result of this decision, which members of the British media are already saying may have been made either to save News Corp.'s proposed takeover of satellite company British Sky Broadcasting, or to protect Rebekah Wade Brooks, the chief executive of News International. On Twitter, Sky News' Tim Gatt reports, citing a News of the World source, "[T]here is mass anger in news room. All directed at Rebekah. Colin Myler absolutely furious. Staff devastated." Gatt also reports that Myler told staff that Brooks has twice offered her resignation, including once last night. 

"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," Murdoch said. "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."

Two hundred employees are reportedly being laid off, though they'll be allowed to apply for other jobs with the company—it's not yet clear how many jobs are actually open, however. 

Colin Myler, the tabloid's editor, has put out a statement of his own in which he calls Thursday "the saddest day of my professional career" and says "Sundays without this great British institution will not be the same." Myler also said, "Whatever price this staff are paying for past misdeeds, nothing should diminish everything this great newspaper has achieved . . . This is an irreplaceable loss to our 7.5 million readers and perhaps they will not know what they are missing until we are gone."


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