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Obituary: News of the World

No paper has done so badly but at the same time no proprietor has the guts to shut the largest read English newspaper down as well!

Neha Saraiya | Delhi | July 11, 2011

168 years old and largest read English newspaper in the world with 7.5 million readers had published its last issue yesterday with the headline THANK YOU & GOODBYE. The pure tabloid like headline of just 3 words described everything. It thanked its readers and announced the closure.

News of the world represents both the lowest point of journalistic ethics and the best response by its proprietor to that crisis. No paper has done so badly but at the same time no proprietor has the guts to shut it down as well. It’s another matter that Rupert Murdoch may have shut it down tactically to save his television business interests but he is still losing £143 million per year. However, the British government is under tremendous pressure not to allow Murdoch to own BSkyB completely. Now that Prime Minister Cameron’s credibility is at stake, Murdoch may not get what he wants but this may be termed as a very courageous decision by him.

The ugly face of journalism has cost the whole newspaper. When the reporters were hacking the phones of celebrities, no one minded it. When they began hacking the phone during terrorist attacks, Iraq war or kidnapping case, people became furious. It was also revealed that the journalists were paying police to fetch the information. And when the Editor Andy Coulson had to quit the newspaper, David Cameron appointed him as his director of communications by saying that he want to give second chance to the editor. After becoming the Prime Minister, Cameron took him to 10 Downing Street who had to resign finally this January. Though the whole episode was extremely embarrassing for the PM, he defended himself by accepting this responsibility publicly. Going further, Cameron said that several newspapers carry such practices. He pointed out that this came into light 5 years ago. Why did not police complete its investigations? We will set up another enquiry to find out why the initial investigations were not successful. He said, “Without any intention to curb the media, I also want to set up a commission which looks at media ethics as a whole. We need the strongest media but they also will have to accept that self-regulation is not working.”

Cameron also hinted that the matter was known to every politician and somehow politicians did not want such an influential newspaper go against them.

The News of the World and its sister concern The Sun have the combined readership of more than 12.5 million. Though the paper was not serious like The Guardian but it had huge followers. Any paper which has 7.5 million readers, its popularity is its power. If they want to say something, they have the biggest audience. Along with The Sun, the New of the world had the history to influence the British politics also. In 1992 elections when everyone predicted the Labour party government in the UK, just before two days of the voting, The Sun came up with the headline “The Sun will vote Tories (Conservative Party).” Next day, the News of the World carried the front page headline “Vote Major (Conservative Party leader)”. When the poling happened, the actual result was quite opposite to the exit polls predictions. The Conservatives won by 12 seats.

Unlike India, UK media has culture to support the political parties openly hence the governments in the UK had always pleased the newspaper for their benefit. The Labour Party had also done everything to keep the newspaper happy to remain in power. It is to be noted that last year, both the newspaper helped Cameron become the Prime Minister. Now, it will be interesting to see how Prime Minister returns the favour to Rupert Murdoch while maintaining the credibility of his government.

It is obvious that Murdoch has played a gamble to take the total control of BSkyB at the cost of the News of the World. If all goes well, Murdoch may make The Sun as 7 day newspaper to compensate the closure of his Sunday newspaper the News of the World.

The 80 year old Australian American media mogul and the Chairman and CEO of News Corporation Rupert Murdoch started with one evening newspaper Australian in Adelaide. Murdoch acquired and started other publications in his native Australia before expanding News Corp into the United Kingdom, United States and Asian media markets. Although it was in Australia in the late 1950s that he first dabbled in television, he later sold these assets, and News Corp's Australian current media interests (still mainly in print) are restricted by cross-media ownership rules. Murdoch's first permanent foray into TV was in the USA, where he created Fox Broadcasting Company in 1986. In the 2000s, he became a leading investor in satellite television, the film industry and the Internet, and purchased a respected business newspaper, The Wall Street Journal.

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