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It’s not right

In conversation with my daughter the other day, she asked me what I thought of the News of the World scandal. It didn’t take me long to come up with an answer. I told her that it made me think of a great ship captured by pirates.

When I was a young man, enjoying my time in local journalism alongside real reporters like David Bell, John McCalman, Isobel Craigie and Tom ‘The Judge’ Christie, the NoW was a mighty organ. Yes, it was the News of the Screws even then, but it was a powerful broadsheet with class and elan, and it was a popular stop on the career ladder. Not only that, it was, or had been, the biggest selling newspaper in the world, with a peak weekly sale of over 8.4m copies. It started flying under the Jolly Roger in 1968, when Rupert Murdoch won control from Robert Maxwell. Maybe the lesser of two evils, but an evil nonetheless. From that point on, it diminished; the stuff we’re hearing about now wasn’t the beginning of its moral bankruptcy. For example, yesterday I heard Brian May, of Queen, claim that its people tried to take photographs through Freddy Mercury’s toilet window when he was approaching his AIDS-related death.  For me its death-knell began to sound in 1984 when it became a tabloid. The last bell will ring on Sunday and that will be that.

Damn few people will be sorry to see it go in its present form, yet the manner of its passing wrankles with me. The ship hasn’t been sunk, it’s been scuttled. The rats are in the lifeboat and the crew have been left to drown. There was an immediate alternative to its closure, one that would have probably been enough to keep the advertisers on board and allow its rehabilitation. It is astonishing to me, and as far as I can see to every person outside the News International boardroom and perhaps the Brooks household, that the person who was at the helm at the beginning of the final phase of impropriety and who is currently group CEO, can remain in post. Rebekah will stay, but Colin Myler, the highly respected editor and his staff, the majority of whom are newcomers and were not involved in the scandals, will be unemployed on Monday.

This has given rise to innumerable sideshows. The ‘arrest’ of Andy Coulson, for one. (A necessary legal formality leaked by the police. Why? Good question.) His summary trial and conviction for unstated crimes by the likes of Nick Robinson and Robert Peston of the BBC, which is doing all it can to undermine the proposed 100% acquisition of BSkyB by NewsCorp. Robinson and other self-interested journalists, pillorying Dave Cameron for employing Coulson, when that actually has nothing to do with teh central issues involved. The creepy Ed Millipede jumping on the bandwagon, when the predecessors he served slavishly were so far up the Murdochs they could barely pop out for air. The Metropolitan Police being allowed to investigate itself following allegations of bribery by the News of the World.

This is all beyond fiction. I doubt if J K Rowling, or even Sir Terry Pratchett could have made up this lot up.

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