Quick End to Britain’s ‘News of the World’

By Keir Radnedge, Chairman AIPS Football Commission.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s decision to shut down the News of the World –  Britain’s most commercially-successful, best-selling Sunday newspaper – and dominant sports publication — is the most sensational development thus far in a media scandal which has rocked the country’s social, political and commercial establishment.

As a sidebar, the decision will also have an effect on sports coverage because the 168-year-old paper provided the most comprehensive soccer reporting coverage during the season and generally set the sports ‘chat’ agenda every Sunday.

The decision followed a saga sparked by the discovery in 2006 that a private investigator employed by the News of the World had ‘hacked’ phone conversations to generate storylines. Showbusiness celebrities and politicians were initial targets and the investigator and one NoW journalist went to prison as a result.

Even more serious allegations concerning phone-hacking – and illegal payments to police sources – have followed. Some say the Murdochs have seized on the scandal as an excuse to cut costs. Sister paper The Sun is expected to extend to a Sunday edition to fill the commercial gap – and demonstrate corporate responsibility vis-à-vis a major TV ownership which Murdoch is attempting to achieve.

The aggression of the News of the World’s sports reporting will leave a gap; the interviews will be missed; the player trades gossip will be missed; the paper’s comprehensive print projection of sport will be missed unless picked up by another publication.

All media groups in the UK have used the recession as an excuse to put hundreds of journalists – news and sport – out of work with limited opportunity of new employment. More will join the unemployment queue after the last edition of the News of the World goes to press in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Many regretful realists – who accept that print sales are falling, falling, never to recover – view the demise of newspapers, for whatever reason, as an inevitable result of the technological revolution which has moved the delivery of information from paper (newspapers, magazines) to screen (a multiplicity of platforms).

The British government is setting up a high-level inquiry into media practice and behaviour. This may reveal, along the way, that web-based operations tend to be more about ‘content’ than journalism. This is why the News of the World – at least in the sports sphere – will be missed.