News of the World: goodbye and thanks for all the fish
Faced with a dilemma, many people (generally christians, admittedly) would pose the question: what would Jesus do?
What wouldn’t Jesus do, is perhaps a better question.
But I’m not here to talk about Jesus.
I’ve written about the News of the World and the phone hacking scandal before. I’ve touched on the allegations of police collusion, which have now been linked in the public domain to the payment – by the newspaper and its owners of more than £100,000 to serving police officers. I’ve voiced my take on the illegal and immoral accessing of people’s mobile phone voicemails and the distress it has caused.
I’ve posed the question do we have the press we deserve?
When, just a few days ago, it became clear that the underbelly of the News of the World’s phone hacking scandal was seedier than at first imagined.
I saw someone on twitter ask what could be done to dig the paper out of its hole. What, I wondered, would Rupert Murdoch do?
Now we know. Holed below the water-line, the News of the World is to be closed down. The final edition will be published on 10 July.
But that’s far from being the end of it. The image of British tabloid journalism is unlike to walk away from this episode pestilence-free.
Friends and colleagues in the US and Australia have talked to me about the News of the World in recent days and have all expressed surprise that a mainstream national newspaper could ever have behaved in this way.
But this is not an isolated incident, an aberration. This is a systemic disregard for the law, for privacy and for standards of common decency.
So what if on 17 July the News of the World is no longer available in your local newsagent. Do you think the people behind the decisions that led to the recent appalling incident will cease to exist? Of course not.
The list of innocent casualties in this sordid affair goes on and on, and now includes (potentially at least) an as-yet-unknown number of News International employees who were nowhere near this scandal but who have become collateral damage.
Unless the government and the police (preferably an arm of the police service that doesn’t have grubby hands and sticky fingers) instigate a thorough and unexpurgated investigation the reputation of British tabloid journalism may never recover.