The word “sensational” is often over used, not least by tabloid newspapers, such as those owned by Rupert Murdoch.
However, no other word can be used to describe the story that is developing even as your contributor is typing this – at this point we are slightly ahead of the BBC.
It is reported that Mr Murdoch is closing the News of the World, his downmarket British weekly, with effect from this Sunday.
Long a by-word for the worst aspects of British tabloid journalism, the NoW was nevertheless extremely profitable. People condemned it, but they also read it. Yet it seems that the latest round of scandals were too much for anyone to stomach.
It started innocuously enough, with revelations that people working for NoW had hacked into the mobile telephone accounts of “celebrities”. This led to criminal investigations and the prospect of a mountain of civil litigation claims, but the general population was unmoved. If anything, most people were amused.
In the last few days, the scandal has taken a more serious turn. There are accusations that the NoW hacked into the accounts of families of high-profile murder victims in particularly emotive cases. The final straw was the accusation that they had been spying on the families of British soldiers killed in action.
After that, the end came quickly. This morning, the Royal British Legion, Britain’s most established veterans’ organisation, ended a highly profitable fundraising campaign with the NoW. A number of commercial advertisers had already announced that they no longer wished to be associated with the paper.
Even so, Mr Murdoch’s decision to close, suddenly and completely, a part of his media empire that has yielded such profit in the past – and might have yielded more in future – was dramatic to say the least. Perhaps he feels the need to protect the brand name of more prestigious holdings. Perhaps he is genuinely sickened by what NoW did. Perhaps it is a bit of both.
No doubt this will be cited as a demonstration of the power of the market. Be that as it may, it is also a demonstration of the decisiveness and ruthlessness that is necessary to become as rich and powerful as Mr Murdoch.