London: Journalists at the British tabloid shut down by Rupert Murdoch broke down in tears on Thursday and expressed shock, sadness and fury at the unexpected fallout of a phone hacking scandal.
Many blamed Murdoch’s most senior British newspaper executive and close confidante—Rebekah Brooks—for the bolt from the blue which will put dozens, maybe hundreds, of employees of the financially successful newspaper out of work.
News International, Murdoch’s company, is standing by Brooks who was editor of the News of the World when some of the gravest offences were alleged to have taken place.
“They’re closing down a whole newspaper just to protect one woman’s job,” one reporter who asked not to be named told Reuters. “There is a feeling of seething anger and pure hatred towards her. People are just in a complete state of shock.”
Others charged that they were being punished for the crimes of their predecessors as many were not working for the Sunday paper when the hacking supposedly took place.
News Corporation said it would close the 168-year-old paper after this Sunday’s edition following months of mounting allegations about the conduct of its journalists over a period dating back almost 10 years.
The News of the World, which sold around 2.6 million copies in April, dominates the Sunday tabloid market like its stable mate, The Sun, dominates the market during the week.
The paper was accused of hacking in to the voicemails of thousands of people, from child murder victims to the families of Britain’s war dead and those caught up in the London bombings in 2005.
“I am absolutely devastated,” one of the paper’s sub-editors said. “A lot of people are paying the price for the mistakes of their predecessors, none of whom are working for the paper any more. It’s awful. A lot of journalists have lost their jobs this evening and for what?”
Walk-out in Solidarity
Sub-editors on The Sun, walked out of work in solidarity with their colleagues, according to the trade union, the National Union of Journalists.
“This is an act of damage limitation to salvage Murdoch’s reputation and that of News International—both of which are now tarnished beyond repair,” NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said in a statement.
Journalists were told the news in an initial meeting on the newsroom floor by Brooks, with many of the journalists gasping in shock.
They later held another meeting without Brooks, led by the popular editor Colin Myler, who was himself clearly upset, reporters said. Many then decamped to nearby pubs.
“Rebekah Brooks came down to the floor, made the announcement, announced the closure, and there were gasps from members of the staff and there was some tears,” features editor Jules Stenson told Reuters, standing outside the sprawling News International complex.
“There was no lynch mob mentality which I’ve seen reported. There was just a very shocked acceptance at the decision.”
Others said there was a sense of devastation and grief for a newspaper which was known for its racy front-page splashes detailing the sex lives of politicians, celebrities and sports stars.
“I’m absolutely gutted that part of this country’s heritage has ended,” a journalist drinking beer with colleagues outside the Cape pub in Wapping told Reuters. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Others were still stunned by the speed of events.
“I was in the pub with a friend, my phone rang, and it was a colleague who said ‘drop everything, check your email´,” political editor David Wooding told reporters outside the building.