Oh, how I wish I were back in London right now to snap up the final edition of the News of the World; the paper that will leave a gaping hole in British journalism for its years of being what it was.
I say this as a polite, tempered farewell to the paper.
But really it should be a goodbye to a paper that offered eccentric journalism at its best, a “cheerio” to those historic pages of untainted sleaze. I’ll do more than shed a scandalous tear; I’ll explain why the end is bittersweet and why the tears are actually happy for the News Corporation executives.
It’s quite rousing to admit this, but the 168-year-old paper that was brought down in several phone-hacking scandals, took the easy way out. And the most lucrative.
Firstly, we know that the News of the World is Britain’s best-selling newspaper. (This is aside from the fact that if you ever ask anyone in the United Kingdom which paper they read, you’ll have a hard job of finding someone that says “the News of the World.”) But such a success within the corporate world has ways of molding its bad news into better news.
The allegations that the paper’s journalists paid police for information and hacked into the voicemails of young murder victims and the families of dead soldiers dragged its image through the mud, driving Rupert Murdoch’s News International to shut down the paper.
The final edition of the tabloid on Sunday apologized to its readers for letting them down, saying “quite simply we lost our way.”
It was News of the World – signing off.
Excuse me while I burst into laughter while the curtain closes on this show. In this blatantly “sacrificial” act to “let go” of a brand for the better good of honest journalism and save the face of editorial integrity, the British public is now focusing its attention on the end of a prominent British offering.
Perhaps they are quietly sad about it because, let’s face it, it is almost like the end of Cadbury’s for UK journalism. Yes, British patriotism will probably stick its oar in.
But behind the paper’s stiff, rigid apology to the millions, a cheeky soppy-eyed sorry still seeps through.
The News of the World will become more popular in its death than when it was alive because the money-spinning minds behind the decision to kill off the paper know that it will not be enough to taint the wider News Corp brand.
Brand strategist Simon Middleton, author of “Build a Brand in 30 Days,” said he did not believe News Corp would win back people’s trust simply by shutting the paper. But he noted a shift in attitude toward it since the announcement of the closure, with public anger now focused more on the organization itself.
“One of the fascinating things is that News of the World has gone from being reviled, hated and scorned, to being described as Britain’s iconic popular newspaper,” he told Reuters.
Murmurings of a new title from News Corp to replace the News of the World have already been heard.
This should snuggly fit in with prominent newspaper titles The Times, Sunday Times, and The Sun, which are all part of the News Corp empire. Those who will miss the News of the World can breathe a sigh of relief, perhaps. But my instincts tell me to never expect a mistake-free “clean” tabloid.
Meanwhile, I’m still wishing I was in London. Yes, I do still want to pick up that last edition. Although, I’m not sure why.
(Eman El-Shenawi of Al Arabiya English can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)