July 22, 2024

Emphatic Farewell for British Paper Caught Up in Hacking Scandal

With that, the 168-year-old News of the World came to an end, brought down by a scandal over the interception of voicemail messages that is rocking Britain’s media, its police force and government, and threatens the empire of a previously unassailable mogul. The final edition included an apology to readers for the newspaper losing its way, as well as a defiant claim to being the “world’s greatest.”

As staff members filed out one by one, the newspaper’s editor Colin Myler reprised a tradition that goes back to the glory days of British journalism, a time before voicemail, when storied publications like The News of the World were based around Fleet Street in the City of London and reported on Britain’s sprawling empire. He stood at a desk and struck it with a ruler as he looked each staff member in the eye, an emphatic farewell known as “banging out”. 

Several staff members said that they expected the police would soon turn their beloved newspaper into a crime scene as investigations into the hacking scandal gained momentum. 

In the pub around the corner, where drinks were free for those from the closing paper, employees in News of the World T-shirts cheered as their own interviews were replayed on television tuned to the Sky News channel.

“No one here had anything to do with hacking,” said one journalist who did not want to be identified for fear of jeopardizing employment prospects with News International, the owner of The News of the World as well as other national newspapers.

There was widespread disdain for News International executives, especially the chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who most said had sacrificed their jobs to save her own. By the end of the evening, Ms. Brooks’s name had become a pejorative. And one staffer said expenses for this week had reached $4,000, a farewell gesture.

But drinks and vendettas were forgotten when crisp, freshly printed stacks of the final edition arrived at the pub around midnight. “Thank you and goodbye” read the headline, printed over smaller images of notable front covers.

Many headlines captured the swashbuckling swagger, the exuberant love of words, the hunger for a scoop, that had characterized Britain’s free-wheeling tabloid culture before it was irreparably tainted. “Chief Of Defence In Sex And Security Scandal.” “Duke And The Hooker.” “Runaway Bishop Confesses All.”

It may have been “grandly sustained by an eternal cast of randy vicars, misbehaving politicians and adulterous celebrities,” wrote the critic DJ Taylor, in the Independent newspaper, but The News of the World, was inexorably a part of Britain’s “sense of collective identity”. 

“It is Sunday afternoon,” a quote from George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Decline of the English Murder” on the back cover of the final edition, reads, “preferably before the war. 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 …”

Those doing so on Sunday morning found an editorial on Page 3 that addressed “a period of a few years up to 2006,” during which “we lost our way. Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry.” Above the editorial were the defiant words “world’s greatest newspaper, 1843-2011.” 

There was a sense, even among the newspaper’s detractors, that something would be lost if a public inquiry into the culture, ethics and practices of the British press, announced last week by Prime Minister David Cameron, draws the teeth of the tabloids.  

The proudly sensational red-tops, as they are called, are famed for their wordplay — when President Obama met the Dalai Lama last year, the Sun ran with “Obama Lama Ding Dong” — and for ruthless methods which had, until now, stayed (just) on the right side of mischievous. 

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4c5f3d837d3a78a51bf03735931c4a7f

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