5 Things To Know About The “News Of The World” Scandal

After publishing every Sunday since 1843, British tabloid The News of the World—aka News of the Screws—is no more. Owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, the paper has become infamous for digging up celebrity dirt and sex scandal scoops, and publishing photos like those of Princess Diana sunbathing topless on a private beach back in the day. People have traditionally eaten the paper up—it sells a whopping 2.8 million copes a weekend. But over the past week, the paper has exploded in scandal over phone hacking. Yesterday it was announced that Sunday’s edition will be the paper’s very last.

After the jump, the who, what, when, and whys of what’s going down.

  1. The first and most obvious question is, of course, what did News of the World reporters do wrong? They illegally hacked into voicemail boxes looking for information. And we’re not just talking about a few people—police are looking into 4,000 celebrities and people of note who may have been victims of NoW hacking. Some are politicians. Some are celebrities, like Sienna Miller and Gwyneth Paltrow. (Sienna sued over being hacked and won £100,000 pounds in damages.) The most outrage has come over more recent revelations that the paper also hacked the bereaved relatives of soldiers who had died. And they also hacked into the voicemail of missing persons, most notably Milly Dowler, a teenager who was murdered. Because there was activity in her voicemail account, her family held out hope that she was alive—but it was just swarmy reporters trying to dig up info. [BBC News]
  2. Reporters didn’t have to work too hard to do this hacking. All they had to do was call their target’s cell phone and hope they didn’t answer. Since almost nobody changes their voicemail password from the standard “1234,” they were usually in with a few presses of buttons. [BBC News]
  3. This isn’t the first time the paper’s questionable practices have come to light. In 2003, News International’s chief executive admitted that the paper regularly paid police for information. In 2006, it was discovered that the paper’s royal editor had hacked into the voicemails of several of Prince William‘s aides to get information about his knee injury. The editor was arrested, as was a private investigator he was working with, and during the investigation, the police found records of 3,000 other names that may have been hacked. An investigation of the newspaper was opened, only to be closed a few years later leading to public outrage, since (as you’ll remember) the paper was also paying off police officers. In January, the case was finally reopened. [BBC News]
  4. Hugh Grant took a part in taking down the ‘bloid. After a former NoW reporter and paparazzo implied to him that he might have been hacked, he met with the former reporter at a bar and secretly tape recorded their conversation. The reporter said that high ups—including Murdoch—were aware of the practice of hacking. The former reporter also confirmed what was just rumor at that point—that NoW had indeed hacked Milly Dowler’s phone. [EW]
  5. This Sunday’s final paper will run without any advertisements. Instead, ad space has been donated to charities. “You do not need to be told that the News of the World is 168 years old. That it is read by more people than any other English language newspaper,” Murdoch wrote to the staff of News International. “The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself. Apologising and making amends is the right thing to do.” This all sounds like a sweet move, but many are questioning Murdoch’s motives. See, News Corporation is in the running to take over the television network BSkyB. Many think closing News of the World was the only way for Murdoch to save that bid as the public has already begun protesting the UK’s Culture Secretary so he will not approve the deal. [This Is London]

What do you think of this whole scandal? Should the News of the World be shuttered? Also, I know I’m wondering if other tabloids are using these practices? Maybe we’ll see some more investigations soon.

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