The News of the World: some initial thoughts

by Naomi Colvin

This afternoon’s announcement of the closure of the News of the World is not quite the victory for righteous indignation many would wish it to be. While it is true that the exodus of advertisers and the reluctance of newsagents to stock the paper this Sunday will have presented a considerable problem, it is unlikely that this decision will have been made with quite so much haste as may first appear. Not only was the News of the World the most profitable newspaper in the UK, after the Times of India it was one of the most-read papers in the English-speaking world.

We know that the intention to integrate the Sun’s operations with that of the NOTW had been already announced over a week ago. It is entirely possible that News International’s attempt to seize the narrative of the voicemail interception story has doubled as useful cover for the laying off of 200 editorial staff that they wanted to do anyway. It is not known who registered the domain name a couple of days back, but surely no one will be surprised to see the NOTW’s sister paper The Sun launch a Sunday edition relatively swiftly.

Those of a strategic turn of mind have speculated that getting shot of one of News International’s main media properties may also help with clearing objections to the pending Murdoch takeover of BSkyB:

But something has changed with the abrupt end of the NOTW’s 168 year history, something that it may not be possible to remedy. A paper that portrayed itself to its readership as one that prioritised the protection of children from crime above all else has been revealed to be one that manipulated and exploited the families it purported to champion in brutal fashion, to the extent of interfering with police investigations. That kind of trust capital is unlikely to be rebuilt easily; it may be that former NOTW readers can never quite believe what the press tells them in quite the same way again.

It is to be hoped that the terms of the recently-announced public enquiry, when they are revealed, do not shy away from examining the complicity of news organisations beyond the already named-and-shamed and the shortcomings of the Metropolitan police. And there will still be the political reckoning to come. If, as some rumours suggest, Andy Coulson is soon to be arrested then we have not seen the half of it.