Phone-hacking British tabloid newspaper becomes too sensational to survive spreading scandal
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Although it's hardly a shock that brash British papers use a whatever-it-takes approach to create sensational headlines, illegal and grossly offensive phone message snooping by the largest tabloid ignited such a firestorm that Sunday's edition was its last. The News of the World, a spicy paper published since 1843, was abruptly shut by its embarrassed owner -- a global media company headed by Rupert Murdoch. He and the tabloid culture he represents are now under unprecedented British government scrutiny.
The furor arose after revelations that the paper's journalists invaded the voice mail accounts of a 13-year-old murder victim, London terror bombing victims and relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. A past editor, one of three people arrested Friday, is under "suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications," police say, and also is a target of investigators looking into bribes to police officers. As a result, Murdoch is "the object of an entire nation's disgust and anger," New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote Saturday.
The News of the World had an audited circulation exceeding 2.6 million, the largest of any English-language paper globally. News Corp., Murdoch's $33-billion media empire, bought it in 1969. The firm also owns the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Fox News, other cable networks and film studios. Now, amid the expanding scandal, the company has paid out settlements to some of those whose phones were hacked and may need to compensate many others. For decades, London's tabloids have delivered sensational stories about politicians, celebrities and royal family members. Papers hired private investigators and others who helped them obtain confidential information, using techniques that came to be called "the dark arts.' Hacking into the voice mail messages of story targets was common, ex-reporters say. The new revelations, involving ordinary citizens and casualty victims, have created wide revulsion among Parliament members and other Britons.
Prime minister says: "This is a wakeup call. . . . Press freedom does not mean that the press should be above the law." -- David Cameron, July 8 news conference
London commentator says: "For more than a generation, Rupert Murdoch's empire has been a spider at the heart of an intricate web that has poisoned British public life." -- Peter Oborne, chief political commentator, The Telegraph newspaper
U.S. columnist says: "Reporters who work at pressure-packed scandal sheets quickly become inured to crossing lines and destroying lives; it's what they do." -- Joe Nocera, New York Times business columnnist
Front Page Talking Points is written by
Felix Grabowski and Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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