In shocking news today, Rupert Murdoch is folding The News of the World — the 168-year-old newspaper with the highest circulation of any newspaper, anywhere.
The British tabloid is at the center of a phone-hacking controversy that was broken by rival newspaper The Guardian, a scandal that has rocked the UK, been hotly debated in the British parliament, besmirched the Murdoch family name — son James delivered the news, via the company's Sky News channel — and challenged the integrity at the heart of Murdoch's farflung News Corp. media empire.
"Recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police with respect to the News of the World are deplorable and unacceptable," stated Murdoch in a statement published on the newspaper's online homepage, above. "We are committed to addressing these issues fully and have taken a number of important steps to prevent them from happening again."
The upcomimg Sunday edition of News of the World will be its last, with proceeds from the edition's sales going to charity as the company shifts into crisis mode to address charges that the so-called "red top" authorized hacking into mobile phones, including not only celebrities such as Hugh Grant, but those of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and families of 7/7 bombing victims.
The announcement from News International chairman James Murdoch stated that the paper’s good name and reputation "have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong — indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company."
"The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account," James Murdoch announced. "But it failed when it came to itself…Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued.”
Murdoch reiterated the company’s full cooperation with the two ongoing police investigations, as the public reaction was nothing short of stunned by the newspaper's closure.
Citywire reports that shares of News Corporation, the parent company of News International, have fallen 3.6% since the scandal broke, attributed to advertisers backing away from NOTW, further compounded by fears that News Corp won’t succeed in taking over BSkyB.
Advertisers pulling their ads included Ford, Bulmers and Virgin. Tesco was one of the few brands to stand by NotW as advertisers boycotted the paper by pulling ads. Tesco said in a statement today that they're waiting for “the allegations to be investigated thoroughly” before punishing the paper.
With a staff of approximately 100 for the newspaper that sold an average of 2.6 million copies weekly, James Murdoch told the paper's employees:
“You may see these changes as a price loyal staff at the News of the World are paying for the transgressions of others. So please hear me when I say that your good work is a credit to journalism. I do not want the legitimacy of what you do to be compromised by acts of others. I want all journalism at News International to be beyond reproach. I insist that this organisation lives up to the standard of behaviour we expect of others. And, finally, I want you all to know that it is critical that the integrity of every journalist who has played fairly is restored.”
In more fallout from the situation, the Wall Street Journal, the American crown jewel in the News Corp. domain, reported that the scandal was likely to delay Murdoch's pending BSkyB deal "for months."
Labour MP Tom Watson told Sky News that the demise of the newspaper was "a victory for decent people up and down the land, and I say good riddance to the News of the World." What do you think — over-reaction, or justified?