Neville Thurlbeck, former news editor of the News of the World, gives his very personal views on how things have changed one year on from the closure of the British tabloid.
One year after the closure of the News of the World, I thought it would be an appropriate opportunity to focus on how the media landscape has altered in that time.
The causes of the closure have been extensively examined. But the consequences haven’t, largely because the examiners are our detractors. And the conclusion they are fond of drawing is simply, “good riddance”.
No newspaper is without fault. And I will readily admit, we had more than our fair share. But by the time of closure, we had cleaned up our act. And I doubt any tabloid newspaper could withstand the scrutiny endured by the News of the World from the Press, Parliament and the police. That scrutiny was effectively brought upon us by the disastrous mismangement of the phone hacking scandal by News International.
The fallout has had a withering effect on tabloid investigations, which used to set the news agenda alight week after week. The broadsheets won’t tell you this, but at midnight on Saturday, their newsdesks would wait with excitement to see our front page to follow it up. And our stories would often run through the pages of our rivals all week. I know this, because when I was on the newsdesk, their news editors used to ring me every week pleading for a steer on what we were running
That no longer happens. No one has taken our place. And the news agenda is thinner.
I think when the gunsmoke drifts from this tortured battlefield, this is what historians may conclude.
In this piece, I use heavy irony, not in a bitter sense but as a rhetorical device to lampoon the sanctimonious belief held by some that killing the News of the World was good for the media industry and benefits the nation.
Below is the original article published on Neville Thurlbeck’s blog.
Three Cheers for the Death of the News of the World! An Anniversary Tribute!
RUPERT MURDOCH did much to improve the moral well being of the nation when he closed down the News of the World.
Since then, we live in a much less polluted society and our collective soul has been cleansed by the eradication of the evil staff (me) and wicked readers (yes you!).
In the 12 months since the paper closed, no one can have failed to notice how Britain is a finer and more noble place to live.
No peer of the realm has committed perjury, no “happily married” MPs have been taking secret mistresses and all celebrities have chucked their class A drugs into the Thames.
I am immensely reassured by the fact that, search as they may, not one newspaper has been able to locate a single paedophile ring to bust.
As for gun runners, drug dealers, human traffickers and bent cricketers, I am relieved to report that, since the closure of the News of the World, my colleagues on rival newspapers have been unable to find one. They all saw the error of their ways, took Holy Orders or became outreach workers at Lambeth Council.
Why the News of the World wasn’t closed down years ago, I’ll never understand.
To think that seven generations of journalists spent 168 years fooling around, exposing the misdemeanours and crimes of the great and the good for absolutely no reason at all. Those glittering industry awards and the biggest circulation in the world were the fruits of an elaborate hoax on the nation.
Because as soon as we left the stage, so did all the villains who decided they wouldn’t be seen dead in the Sunday Mirror. And they would rather appear in Good Housekeeping than, heaven forbid, in the fluffy Sun on Sunday.
In 1995, we kicked up a bit of a stink when a judge let off some crooks we had exposed. In those not-far-off times, all sorts of misguided fools used to spring to our defence, in case you’ve forgotten.
On August 5 that year, one lad said: “I recognise the valuable role the News of the World has played in bringing criminals to book. I applaud the co-operation the police have received from the newspaper and its investigative reporters.
“If the law is inhibiting the role played by the News of the World then I would certainly want to look at it.”
Poor deluded fool . Michael Howard was his name. What do Home Secretaries know about these things eh? And he was deadly serious when he told me. I stuck it in the paper for a bit of a joke.
These even minded fellows in the Labour Party, especially the understated and even-keeled Tom Watson, were spot on to jump on the bandwagon of our commercial rivals at the Guardian and have us killed off. It is just what the country and the newspaper industry needed. It would have been OK if we had been found wanting and cleaned up our act. But we hadn’t.
Rupert Murdoch’s adversaries will never force him to sell off his remaining London newspaper assets. The Sun, and the colossal loss makers, the Times and Sunday Times, are very close to his heart. In fact, he has formed a special little company just for them so they can be safe and sound in perpetuity! That was really nice of him I thought. Just goes to show he’ll always be here to make sure these great institutions don’t fall into the hands of a billionaire porn merchant or an asset stripping buccaneer.
Good to see he still has a sense of humour too. Those foolish, misguided “English”, who don’t want his billions. Ho, ho, he loves a jolly little leg-pull does old Rupe! Don’t worry, he’ll be here forever, safeguarding thousands of jobs and subsidising our greatest newspaper titles by pouring in millions of pounds of his own cash.
So relax. All’s well with the world now the old rag has been shut. And investigative journalism has never been sharper. I don’t panic because I live in the real world you see. And on that note, I’ll say “Cheerio and pip-pip ” as I’m off to the bookies – to back Elvis riding Shergar in the 2.30 at Brigadoon.
This article originally appeared on Neville Thurlbeck’s blog www.nevillethurlbeck.com
On Twitter @nthurlbeck