Sunday, 10 July 2011

The News of the World

So here it is, the 8,674th edition of the News of the World - and one of the last copies on my newsagent shelf by 10 o'clock this morning.

I know lots of people who buy the News of the World. People who normally buy The Sunday Times and The   Observer too. People who during the week buy The Guardian and The Telegraph. They buy the News of the World for a little light relief and a lot of salacious gossip - we've loved gossip for centuries - look at the characters in the average Jane Austin novel to bear this out. So whether we like their methods or not, the News of the World is a British institution, and it'll be missed from the newstands next week and onwards.

When it got it right it was a force for good - they changed laws - remember Sara's Law which they battled to support and finally win through for 10 years? And as proved over the last few years, when they got it wrong they stunk to high heaven.

But who are the winners in this sorry story? Their competitors like The Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Mirror are bound to pick up readers and more revenues. Those who have something to hide like a grubby visit to a prostitute or an illegal exchange for cash will have less to worry about getting caught. And I am forced to admit that anything that cleans up the act of the media in general when it comes to doorstepping and illegal and underhand behaviour is a good thing but I can't help thinking that once the dust has settled things will still be the same.

The editorial from the first issue had these words to say -

'The General utility of all classes is the idea with which this paper originated. To give to the poorer classes of society a paper that would suit their means, and to the middle, as well as the rich, a journal which from its immense circulation, should command their attention, have been the influencing  motives that have caused the appearance of the News of the World. We shall make no apology for those motives, because, we conceive, that in their accomplishment we shall attain an end, that in the present state of England is not only desirable but absolutely necessary. Journalism for the rich man, and journalism of the poor, has up to this time, been as broadly and distinctly marked, as the manners, the dress, and the habitations of the rich, are from the squalor and the dens of the poor. The paper for the wealthy classes is high priced, it is paid for by them, and it helps to lull them in the security of their prejudices. The paper for the poorer classes in on the otherhand, low priced, and it is paid for by them: it feels bound to pander to their passions. TRUTH, when it offends a prejudice, and shows, the evil of passion, is frequently  excluded from both.'

They achieved what they set out to do - to provide a newspaper that was bought by both the rich and poor, and over the years shed light on a wide variety of scandals and cover-ups. They achieved the biggest circulation with some 7.5 million readers a week. It's a scandal in itself that their methods proved as shoddy in recent years as those of the individuals they have long sought to expose. 

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