Sad To See You Leaving 2011: The News of the World

by George_East on December 27, 2011

A little controversial, this one maybe.   But we have ended the year with James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch still in their positions – still controlling The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and yes Sky.   Rebekah Wade so it seems has been set up in an office for a couple of years at News International’s expense.  A couple of hacks and Andy Coulson have been thrown to the wolves.  The bathwater, it seems, remains.

The baby on the other hand has been thrown out. The News of the Screws closed down in a savvy media operation to save the rest of the Murdoch’s media empire.  One less newspaper on Fleet Street is not something to be celebrated. Particularly when, as a newspaper, it was one of the few that actually did investigative journalism.  In fact with the exception of the Guardian, it probably had the best recent record of investigative journalism amongst British newpapers.   An irony given that one of the consequences of Murdoch taking over the Sunday Times was the decimation of the formally great Insight team.

It was the News of the World that only earlier this year broke the cricket betting scandal that has seen three Pakistan test cricketers in prison and a bright spotlight shone on corruption in sport at the highest level.

Equally it was the News of the World that broke the story of Fergie selling access to Prince Andrew.   Not at all a trivial royal story when Prince Andrew was  being used by the government as a roving ambassador for government  business.

These are not the kind of stories that the Daily Express, or The Daily Mail or The Sun would ever have uncovered.  They do not invest in investigative journalism at all.     Investigative journalism is expensive and it is easier to print rabble rousing hate journalism and celebrity gossip.

Much of the News of The World’s investigative journalism was done through Mazher Mahmood, the fake sheik, who you would have thought that every corrupt politician, dodgy sportsman and bent minor royal would have been on the constant look out for.  But no.  Time and time again, the fake sheik with a brief case full of used twenties, a hidden microphone or camera and a good line in bullshit would result in brilliant scoops.

The criminal law was always there to deal with the outrageous abuses that the phone hacking scandal has revealed.   And it should have been fully used to prosecute the editors and executives who encouraged or even required such methods to be used.   But closing the paper in order to protect your son (and the ‘daughter’ you wished you had) should be seen for what it is – a public relations stunt

Sunday in the pub with a posh paper and the News of the World was as much a British tradition as fish and chips or the grand national sweepstake.  And for a good reason – it was sometimes ridiculous, sometimes infuriating but usually entertaining.   More importantly  though the shysters and spivs will sleep easier now it has gone.

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