LONDON – Britain’s best-selling Sunday tabloid the News of the World signed off with a simple front-page message – “THANK YOU & GOODBYE” – leaving the media establishment here reeling from the expanding phone-hacking scandal that brought down the muckraking newspaper after 168 years.
Journalists crafted the newspaper’s own obituary before sending the tabloid’s final edition to the printing presses Saturday night, apologizing 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,” read 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.”
Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. media empire owns the paper, will arrive in London today on a scheduled visit, a person familiar with his itinerary told the Associated Press.
Buying the News of the World in 1969 gave the Australian-born Murdoch his first foothold in Britain’s media. He went on to snap up several other titles, gaining almost unparalleled influence in British politics through the far-reaching power of his papers’ headlines.
Now he is facing a maelstrom of criticism and outrage over the sequence of events set off by allegations the paper’s journalists paid police for information and hacked into the voice mails of young murder victims and the grieving families of dead soldiers.
The recent revelations culminated in the decision to close the paper and put 200 journalists out of work – but the move failed to stem broader questions about corruption at the newspaper and press regulation in the U.K.
The sordid affair has played out at breakneck pace in the media and prompted soul-searching at the highest levels of officialdom. Prime Minister David Cameron has called for a new press regulation system and pledged a public inquiry into what went wrong; the head of Murdoch’s U.K. newspaper operations has alluded that more revelations are yet to come.
But Murdoch has opted to remain largely silent amid the fallout, issuing one official statement describing the allegations as “deplorable and unacceptable.”
He spoke briefly to reporters in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Saturday, where he is attending a media conference, to back the leadership of his U.K. news operations.