Thursday, July 07, 2011

Has Murdoch junior closed the NoTW too soon?

Well, the Murdoch scandal is becoming the gift that just keeps giving.

The announcement by James Murdoch that the News of the World will close after Sunday's edition was one of several ideas that have been running round the blogosphere- after all the idea of separate Sunday titles has been unpopular with newspaper managements for some time. At one extreme is the steady death of the Observer as a separate title, at the other the increasingly full integration of the two Independent titles. So the closure of the NoTW has probably been discussed by News International in various contexts long before now. However it was probably not discussed in the context of the kind of scandal explosion that has now taken place.

However, while it may be good business for Murdoch to take the opportunity to do what he may have wanted to do anyway, it may not- yet- get News International off the hook. By taking such a drastic step at what is still a relatively early stage in the crisis, it may refocus public anger away from the NoTW and onto the wider Murdoch business. There has already been some criticism of the rather hypocritical editorials in the Times, while it may yet be the case that the phone hacking also embraced journalists on The Sun as well as the NoTW.

Has James Murdoch acted too soon? Public anger is still building, and by offering up a sacrificial lamb Mr. Murdoch may find that he is fanning the flames rather than quenching them. One of the key points of this scandal is that The Sun and the NoTW, while nominally functionally independent, were in fact integrated-at least to a degree. It is certainly the case that The Sun printed stories that involved phone hacking- and we do not yet know what degree of culpability the Sun may or may not have had. If it turns out that The Sun is implicated, will James Murdoch close that Paper too?

It seems hardly likely.

On the other hand the closure of the News of the World seemed hardly likely even as early as this morning.

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