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Scandal Prompts Murdoch’s News of the World to Stop Its Presses

July 7, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
News Corp.'s James Murdoch, son of owner Rupert Murdock, announced Thursday that the media giant's widely circulated tabloid, News of the World, would cease publication Sunday after 168 years amid a scandal involving phone hacking and allegations of police bribery. Judy Woodruff reports on the news that electrified Britain.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The phone hacking scandal in Britain came full circle today, with word that the News of the World tabloid will cease to publish, after 168 years in business.

Margaret Warner has the story.

MARGARET WARNER: The news electrified Britain: Next Sunday’s edition of News of the World, the most widely read English-language newspaper in the world, will be its last.

In Sun Valley, Idaho, today, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of parent company News Corporation, had no comment on the tabloid’s closure. But his son James Murdoch spoke in London.

JAMES MURDOCH, News International: Fundamentally, actions taken a number of years ago by certain individuals in what had been a good newsroom have breached the trust that the News of the World has with its readers.

MARGARET WARNER: Those mistakes first came to light in 2005, when News of the World was accused of hacking into cell phone messages of members of the royal family and famous actors. Other revelations followed, amid an ongoing, but fitful police inquiry.

This week, public outrage exploded with leaks from that inquiry that the family of a murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler had been victimized. A private detective working for News of the World allegedly hacked her voice-mail after she disappeared in 2002, and deleted some messages. The activity on her phone account gave them false hope she was still alive.

Then yesterday, relatives of victims of the London bus and subway bombings of July 7, 2005, said they’d been told their messages may have been tapped.

JOSEPH FOULKES, Great Britain: It is hard to imagine that, at the lowest point of your life, you could get any lower, and then hearing that somebody may well have been listening to those very intimate conversations, and you realize that things can get lower. How people can get up in the morning and think, that it is a good idea, for the sake of a story, is beyond me.

MARGARET WARNER: Today, news reports today said bereaved Iraq and Afghan war military families were victimized, too. Scotland Yard now says up to 4,000 people may have been targeted in all.

Investigators are also looking into allegations that, over the years, News of the World has paid members of London’s Metropolitan Police for information. The scandal prompted Ford Motor Company and a host of other advertisers to pull their ads from News of the World.

There are political implications, too. In an emergency debate yesterday, members of Parliament of both parties excoriated Murdoch and his newspaper. But Prime Minister David Cameron stopped short of calling for a separate official inquiry.

DAVID CAMERON, British prime minister: What this government is doing is making sure that the fact the public and I feel so appalled by what has happened, murder victims, terrorist victims who have had their phones hacked, is quite disgraceful. That is why it is important there is a full police investigation with all the powers that they need.

MARGARET WARNER: Labor leader Ed Miliband pointedly noted that a former News of the World editor had been part of Cameron’s inner circle.

Andy Coulson was forced to resign as Downing Street communications chief in January, as the phone hacking scandal gained momentum.

ED MILIBAND, British Labor Party leader: He hasn’t shown the leadership necessary on News International. And isn’t it the case, if the public is to have confidence in him, he has got to come — the thing that is most difficult. He has got to accept that he made a catastrophic error of judgment by bringing Andy Coulson…


ED MILIBAND: … into the heart of his Downing Street machine.

MARGARET WARNER: The fate of another senior former News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks, remains unclear. For now, she is CEO of the paper’s parent company in Britain, News International.

There may be implications for Murdoch’s proposed $12 billion takeover of the cable television network British Sky Broadcasting as well. His News Corporation already owns three other newspapers in Britain and, in this country, The Wall Street Journal, FOX News and The New York Post, among others.