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Rupert Murdoch pulls plug on News of the World

July 7, 2011 | 12:10 pm


Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul at the top of News Corp., has pulled the plug on its popular British newspaper News of the World in the midst of a scandal involving hacked telephone messages. The newspaper, which will print its final edition Sunday, had been operating for 168 years. The announcement from News Corp. stunned publishers, journalists and readers.

Rupert Murdoch's son James Murdoch was the one to make the announcement, which was done in a statement on the News of the World website."The good things the News of the World does, however, have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong. Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our Company," Murdoch wrote. "The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself."

The scandal has grown from reports that staff of News of the World hacked into voicemail accounts of news subjects in order to aggressively report stories. In one egregious incident, the newspaper is accused of accessing voicemails of Milly Dowler, a missing 13-year-old girl, in 2002. When the voicemail box was full, News of the World staff allegedly deleted messages from frantic family members in order to make room for new messages, an action that led investigators to believe that Dowler was well enough to retrieve her voicemail. Instead, it was later learned that she had been kidnapped and killed.

The scandal has prompted a number of advertisers to withdraw from News of the World, which likely contributed to Thursday's surprising cancellation of the paper. From our report:

The closure will mean the death of a weekly newspaper that has been a part of the British media landscape for more than a century. The News of the World enjoys a circulation of more than 2.5 million, far beyond its closest rival....

Whether the drastic step to shut down the paper will dampen public anger remains to be seen. Many politicians are demanding the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and the editor of the News of the World at the time of the alleged hacking into the teenage kidnap victim.

Brooks is one of Rupert Murdoch's closest confidants and has so far insisted that she will stay on to get to the bottom of the hacking scandal.

About 200 News of the World staffers are expected to lose their jobs.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Rupert Murdoch speaking at the eG8 summit in May. Credit: Stephane Mahe / Reuters