BRITAIN’S best-selling Sunday tabloid the News of the World has signed off with a simple front page message in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal: “THANK YOU & GOODBYE”.
Journalists crafted the newspaper’s own obituary before sending the tabloid’s final edition to the printing presses overnight, apologising for letting its readers down but stopping short of acknowledging recent allegations that staff paid police for information.
“We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards,” reads a message posted on the tabloid’s website.
“Quite simply, we lost our way. Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry.”
For the final edition the newspaper’s front and back pages were covered with a collage of images of past exclusives and scoops.
The front page bore an epitaph, “the world’s greatest newspaper 1843 – 2011” and a smaller headline with the words: “After 168 years, we finally say a sad but very proud farewell to our 7.5m loyal readers.”
Throughout the day, journalists at the tabloid expressed their sadness and pride in working for an iconic news brand.
Video of the newsroom showed journalists tapping away at keyboards, one wearing a T-shirt reading: “Goodbye, cruel News of the World, I’m leaving you today.”
The paper’s editor, Colin Myler, offered words of encouragement and sympathy to his staff on a “very difficult day”.
“It’s not where we want to be and it’s not where we deserve to be,” he said in a memo to staff seen by Britain’s Press Association. “But I know we will produce a paper to be proud of.”
Helen Moss, a news and features editor who offered refreshments to journalists camped outside the tabloid’s headquarters, described an “extremely emotional” newsroom.
The decision to close the tabloid was made this week amid shocking new claims of wrong-doing that saw advertising pulled.
It was reported that the News of the World had hacked the mobile phone of 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler in 2002 while her family and police were desperately searching for her.
News of the World operatives reportedly deleted some messages from the phone’s voicemail, giving the girl’s parents false hope that she was still alive.
The revelations ignited public outrage far beyond any previous reaction to press intrusion into the lives of politicians and celebrities, which the paper has acknowledged and for which it has paid compensation to some prominent victims, including actress Sienna Miller.
Revelations that journalists paid police for information added fuel to the fire, prompting calls for a boycott and causing dozens of companies to pull their advertising from the paper amid fears they would be tainted by association.
James Murdoch responded by saying this Sunday’s edition of the tabloid would be its last and all revenue from it will go to “good causes”.
The closure was seen by some as a desperate attempt to stem negative fallout and save a $19 billion deal to take over satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting.
But the British government has signalled that deal will be delayed because of the crisis and the scandal has continued to unfold with the announcement of three arrests linked to the matter this week.
Andy Coulson – a former News of the World editor and ex-communications chief to Prime Minister David Cameron – was arrested, as was Clive Goodman, an ex-News of the World royal reporter, and an unidentified 63-year-old man. All three have since been released on bail.