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When we received the press release from James Murdoch’s corporate affairs team my first thought was that it must be a hoax – the News of the World is to close after Sunday. What will replace it? Something must. We shall see.
However it is worthwhile recording some of James Murdoch’s words: “When I tell people why I am proud to be part of News Corporation, I say that our commitment to journalism and a free press is one of the things that sets us apart.”
“The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself.”
“The News of the World is 168 years old…it is read by more people than any other English language newspaper…it has a proud history of fighting crime, exposing wrong-doing and regularly setting the news agenda for the nation.”
I don’t know James Murdoch and I did not hear him speak these words but they are fine words and add to the dramatic intesity of this moment.
Printed newspapers are in the middle of a big change. Whether this is an example of social media sites setting the agenda or not only time will tell.
The FT reported before the NoW announcement that teams were in place to perhaps introduce “seven-day” working across editorial brands. Rebekah Brookes in an email last week wrote: “There are tough decisions coming. Costs will be need to be cut and savings made.” Perhaps the crisis has provided an opening to make one of those tough decisions? Perhaps not?
However, for retailers who sell newspapers, Thursday’s announcement is very significant. People have turned to newspapers for information and ideas for hundreds of years. They still visit UK shops in huge numbers on a daily basis to satisfy this need for news. I have seen many news retailers react with anger to the hacking scandal. I have seen a few say that it would probably blow over. But none have so far assessed whether this will provide an existential threat to their trade.
They should take a leaf from Mr Murdoch’s words and remind shoppers of all the great things that newspapers have done and continue to do. Keep selling!
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