Last Sunday 10th July saw the final publication of the News Of The World as News International, owners of Britain’s largest selling Sunday paper closed it down.
Over the past several years the paper had faced mounting accusations of illegal practices such as phone-tapping and the hacking of voice mail messages of private mobile phones. A royal affairs editor was found guilty of hacking voice-messages belonging to members of the royal family.
Newer and more damaging revelations of phone-tapping by the newspaper were made by several individuals in recent months mostly by celebrities and politicians. In most cases the paper quietly admitted liability and made settlements. Still the scandal would not go away. The Guardian Newspaper continued the fight to expose the extent of the scandal which seemed to link dodgy journalists, shady private investigators, dubious police officers and Big Money.
In late June a convicted murderer Levi Bellfield was found guilty of murdering the 13-year-old school girl Milly Dowler who disappeared in March 2002. It then emerged that in the days following her abduction and during the police hunt for the teenager the newspaper had hacked into Milly Dowler’s voice mail. The journalists deleted some of the older messages to free up memory. This gave false hope to family and friends that she may still be alive. The police investigations were also seriously hampered by this interference.
The public outrage that followed these revelations was understandable. It seemed that nobody was spared the evil hackers’ attentions; Victims of the July 2005 London bombings, families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, their voice-mail was fair game to the journalists as they searched for ‘the story’. The Prime Minister condemned the paper’s activities as ‘truly dreadful’ and many other leaders called for the sackings of senior people at the newspaper. Insiders say that there may be more serious and damaging revelations in the days and weeks ahead.
It is fair to say for now that the activities of a ‘a few’ rotten eggs have pushed many honest newspaper workers out of a job and ended a proud 168-year tradition of tough and often dangerous investigative journalism. The News of The World exposed many scandals and was not fearful of tackling the high and mighty. They took on drug king -pins, arms smugglers, corrupt authorities and exposed hypocritical clergy in sleazy sex scandals. To their advantage they had the cash and resources to pursue any story and in the end, perhaps, they were brought down by their zeal for getting to the story at any cost.