And so dies “the world’s greatest newspaper” — or at least that’s how the News of the World is selling itself on the front page of its final issue ever, out today. The issue is more of a keepsake, it seems, filled with commemorative inserts and sporting a front-and-back-page wraparound emblazoned with the words “Thank You & Goodbye” superimposed on headlines from some of NotW’s greatest “scoops.” There’s even a tribute from George Orwell, though it should be noted that he died long before the Sunday tabloid hit the bottom of the ethical barrel and kept digging. (Not to mention the rather sick irony of quoting the author of 1984.) Going by the BBC, the paper’s final run is “selling like hot cakes.”
The newspaper is being shuttered in the wake of revelations that journalists hacked into the voice mails of bomb attack victims, celebrities, and even a 13-year-old girl kidnapped on her way home from school. The decision to close the paper was seen as an attempt by parent company News Corp. to keep the scandal from spreading to any of its other U.K. titles — such as the Times of London or weekly tabloid the Sun, which is expected to launch a Sunday edition to fill the hole left by NotW. But things aren’t looking so good for Rupert Murdoch and his media empire, which has never looked quite this shaky. Murdoch even flew into London this weekend to try and salvage News Corp.’s bid for full ownership of the country’s main cable-and-satellite TV broadcaster, BSkyB, which had been expected to be rubber-stamped by the government just this past week. Now Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has said it will slow the approval process and start an intense inquiry into the NotW affair.
Already, top executives from the paper’s recent past are being fingered as possible accessories in the phone-hacking debacle, having apparently signed off on the practice and on out-of-court settlements to hush up whistle-blowers. One former executive, who also served as David Cameron’s press secretary, has already been arrested. And to top the whole thing off with a nice, fat cherry, the Guardian is now reporting that Murdoch’s son, James, may be liable for prosecution on both sides of the Atlantic in relation to the scandal. (Turns out since News Corp. is listed in the United States, the company or its officers may be charged under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for unethical behavior abroad. As a deputy COO of News Corp. and head of its British subsidiary, that puts James Murdoch squarely in the crosshairs.)
And so continues perhaps the greatest media saga of the century. Already 201 victims have been claimed: Britain’s most-read newspaper, that’s one, and 200 of its former employees who now find themselves without a job. Who will be the next to fall?