The ‘News of the World’ and Other Scandals

by Andrew Stuttaford

Charlie, The News of the World was not, of course, the only British paper involved in this sort of behavior.  Cranmer is on the case here and here, and he has some typically interesting questions. 

It’s also worth adding another to the pile. Why is it up to the British (or any) government to decide who is a “fit and proper” person to run a media company?

So far as the shutdown of the News of the World is concerned, I’m not convinced that falling circulation had much (or anything) to do with it. By the abysmal standards of the newspaper industry, the News of the World, Britain’s biggest selling Sunday paper, was doing OK.  The boycott by advertisers would have been a concern, but even that was likely a sideshow. The real worry was probably what the News of the World was doing to the image of its parent company, News International, and, in particular, News International’s ability to take over the rest of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, an attempt that it has now abandoned.

Interestingly, the final issue of the News of the World appears to have sold some 4.5 million copies (the proceeds are going to charity). That’s a couple of million more than the usual number. Why? Well, the News was in the news, people wanted a souvenir and, also, I suspect, nostalgia played its part. I haven’t looked at it for years, but reading the News of the World on some rainy 1960s or 1970s Sunday afternoon was for me, and many others in the UK, part of growing up. As Raedwald puts it, the paper (he refers to it by a shortened form of its not altogether family-friendly nickname) “was a British institution, as familiar and comfortable as a K6 phone box or a Routemaster bus.” 

And so it was. But the dog barks, the caravan moves on, and Polythene Pam (check out the lyrics) will doubtless soon appear in the Sun on Sunday