The News of the World: my take on why it should stay

I have purposely not read any blog posts about the demise of the News of the World. I’ve read the news (haven’t we all?), but I refrained from reading blog posts so as to give myself the opportunity to write this post with as near to an objective mindset as might be possible in this crazy, media-saturated world.

Unlike Steve Coogan, I am sad that the News of the World is closing. Whilst I have never bought the paper in its 167-year history, and whilst I don’t agree with its ethos, it forms part of British society. Further, I expect when the investigations conclude, many years from now, it will find that the majority of its c. 200 employees are innocent of any wrongdoing.

In my view, the Murdochs have decided to axe the paper for entirely business reasons. The negative coverage of its alleged phone hacking over the last few weeks has had a huge adverse impact on its brand. And rather than attempt to recover from such a beating, I expect they have decided that their money is better placed in bolstering the Sun and, over time, turning it into a seven-day newspaper.

And while I don’t know whether the News of the World constitutes a separate legal entity from other publications within the News International fold, I do worry that its closure might result in subsequent investigations being hampered by its perceived right not to preserve information that should rightly constitute evidence.

I have never been interested in the content of stories that form the basis of the paper—certainly those advertised. Yet I know that other people are interested in that sort of content, and that’s fine.

My issue, and the issue that has been focused upon in the latest media storm, is with the method with which its journalists have obtained the information to fuel those stories. While allegedly easy, the newspaper has crossed the line of decency and those guilty employees and associates should be held to account for these actions. And its management, whether indicted or not, should be held to account in a similar way.

Processes should have been in place to ensure that the paper’s management understood the manner in which information (the lifeblood of the paper) was garnered. And checks should have been in place to prove the veracity of the methods being reported. Even if journalists barefacedly lied about the source of their information, checks should have proven that the sources they reported were bogus way before the crimes of the levels we’re hearing were committed.

But I expect that the investigation will find that a small minority of the paper’s workforce—past and present—was guilty. And the innocent incumbent workforce look likely to pay the price in the form of redundancy. In a poor job market within which a floundering newspaper industry sits, this has profound implications for those people. But these people have not been considered in the harsh business decision reported by James Murdoch.

I hope that the investigation finds corruption at the top of the pile. And that the heads of Rebekah Brooks and her senior colleagues roll as a result. Only time will tell whether this will happen.

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