Tabloid of scandal: Murdoch pulls the plug on a discredited newspaper
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The death of a newspaper is not something to cheer, but when the paper in question is the scandal-plagued News of the World, the public could be forgiven one long round of applause.
For years, the News of the World, the flagship tabloid of Rupert Murdoch's media empire in the United Kingdom, violated the public trust by monitoring and sometimes intercepting the voice mail accounts of celebrities and crime victims.
On Thursday, James Murdoch, the deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., the company that owns the newspaper, announced that the tabloid would cease publication on Sunday.
Many believe News Corp. sacrificed the 168-year-old paper on the altar of expediency because the burgeoning scandal is stirring public revulsion and threatening its attempt to acquire controlling interest in a lucrative satellite network.
Victims of the paper's eavesdropping and voice mail tampering schemes include the families of those killed by the 2005 terrorist bombings in London, the relatives of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan and relatives of a 13-year-old girl kidnapped and murdered in 2002. Even Rupert Murdoch called the actions of his reporters and editors "inhuman."
In recent years, nearly a half-dozen journalists at the paper, which had a circulation of 3.7 million, have been arrested. Last week former editor Andy Coulson (who also served as Prime Minister David Cameron's communications director) and former royal editor Clive Goodman were arrested. Mr. Goodman was arrested and jailed once before for suspicion of phone hacking. More arrests are expected.
Most journalists recoil at the thought of what reporters and editors at the News of the World did in pursuit of scoops. Prime Minister Cameron, who has been reluctant to take on the powerful Murdoch family and News Corp. in the past, has joined those denouncing the paper's tactics. Several government inquiries are planned that could result in indictments of top editors.
The story behind what led to many of the paper's scoops is one of the most sordid narratives in modern journalism. News Corp., the corporate parent of the New York Post and Fox News, is justifiably embarrassed. The practices of all Mr. Murdoch's media properties should be scrutinized in light of the criminal enterprise that was once the News of the World.
For too long, the News of the World epitomized a brand of cutthroat, profit-driven journalism that was pursued at the expense of decency, conscience and ethics. Good riddance.
First Published July 11, 2011 12:00 am