Monday, 18 July 2011


I never thought I would write these words, but here goes: I don't think that Rupert Murdoch should have closed down "The News of the World."

As an ex broadsheet journalist, I disliked the paper intensely and the recent revalations about telephone hacking and payments to the police merely confirmed my view that its news gathering was often unprincipled and its content usually cheap and poor journalistically. Shutting it down, however, seems to me to be a cynical attempt to divert attention from the projected BSkyB bid; throwing the paper to the pursuing wolves to save the occupants of the sledge.

As I understand it, the present staff of the newspaper are not accused of any wrongdoing. To throw them out of work, then, seems grossly unfair, even though Murdoch has stated that "most" of them are to be offered jobs elsewhere in his empire. And, crude and superficial as the NOTW's content always appeared to me, it was welcomed as an old friend into more homes in Britain than any other paper.

So I would have cleared out the stable but kept the horse alive - hunted down the original wrongdoers and those few who still existed in the newsroom and management corridors and passed them over to the investigating police. This old-established newspaper could have been scrubbed down and re-launched, keeping its title and most of its present staff and returning to honest news gathering, presented in vigorous tabloid style, and yes, studded with celebrity names for those who like that sort of tack.

The irony, of course, is that the sacrifice of the paper seems, on present evidence, to have been in vain. Murdoch has had to withdraw his bid for BSkyB in the face of public opposition, anyway.

His strategy now seems to be to lie low and hope that the fuss will die down so that he can make a renewed bid for control of the television channel later. Will it? Well, the old Aussie (though he gave up his nationality and became an American citizen just so that he could buy into American TV) remains a real live newsman with a flair for popular taste and opinion. He might just get away with it.

But he will have had the fright of his life. And a much loved piece of Sunday rubbish journalism will have disappeared from our week-end breakfast tables.

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