I was rung up by BBC, Sky and al-Jazeera producers over the weekend and invited on air to discuss the demise of the News of the World. I declined.
I just don’t care. About the NoW, that is. The brand. The paper. Before some of you start baying for my blood, I do, of course, care about the 200 or so people who’ve lost their jobs — but Murdoch and Brooks are to blame for those job losses and not, as the Times’s Roger Alton ludicrously argued on Channel 4 News last week, “the comfortable middle-class mothers of MumsNet”, or the BBC, or the Guardian, blah blah blah. (On a side note, I can’t help but notice that the NoW was one of the papers constantly calling for sackings and redundancies in the public sector.)
What’s really annoyed me over the past 72 hours or so is the way in which people have been bleating on about the paper’s demise as if someone’s died. The outpouring of “emotion” for something that, let’s be honest, most of us had little to do with, or little interest in, is reminiscent of those nauseating days and weeks after the death of Princess Diana in August 1997.
The most irritating claim, however, is that we should mourn the passing of the world’s “greatest investigative paper”. Really? Was the NoW behind the exposure of torture at Abu Ghraib? The failure to find WMDs in Iraq? The MPs’ expenses scandal? Cash for questions? Thalidomide?
As for the Pakistani cricketing scandal, I mean, come on, Pakistani cricketers are corrupt, says News of the World. Shock! Horror!
Hats off, then, to Roy Greenslade (in the Guardian!) for calling on people to “put the handkerchiefs aside” and giving us some perspective (and facts!).
The final edition of the News of the World yesterday unashamedly appealed to the emotions of its audience while casting itself as a victim of circumstances beyond its own control.
In the course of 48 pages celebrating its supposedly finest moments, it sought to play the hero while attempting to disguise its villainy. Indeed, some of the villainy was given a heroic gloss.
Without wishing to dance on a dead newspaper’s grave, especially while the body is still warm, it should not be allowed to get away with perpetuating yet more myths amid the cheap sentimentality of its farewell.
Put the handkerchiefs aside to consider the editorial that took up all of page 3: “We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006, some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards.”
. . . Yet this is the newspaper that was forced in 2008 to pay damages of £60,000 for a gross intrusion into the privacy of Max Mosley. Also in 2008, the paper paid damages to film star Rosanna Arquette for falsely claiming she had been a drug addict.
In 2009, it paid damages to the Unite leader Derek Simpson for falsely claiming he had breached union election rules. In 2010, it paid five-figure damages to Sheryl Gascoigne for libelling her over her relationship with her former husband. It was also in 2010 that the paper entrapped the world snooker champion John Higgins in a highly suspect sting operation.
This is a mere random selection from scores of the paper’s post-2006 iniquities that resulted in it paying out thousands in damages. Were these the high standards to which the editorial refers?
Hear, hear! Oh, and remember the (non) plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham?