A week, it turns out, is a long time not just in politics but in the media, as the 168-year-old News of the World (I hesitate to do a link) closed up shop with its last edition today after a lifetime of lurid headlines. I remember some case years back when someone accused NotW or its sister daily, The Sun, of trading on the very "fabric of people's lives". Now it appears the NotW at least, also traded on the very fabric of their deaths, for what can only be described as graveyard scoops.
During my England years, there were crimes that the whole country suffered together, to a lesser or greater extent. A child goes missing and TV bulletins and newspapers are full of the alarming news. Tearful parents plead for the child's return in emotionally charged press conferences. Everyone can identify with the mother especially and the whole country prays for the return of the missing child; and the longer it takes, the more hope thins for the child's safe return.
I lived through many such national human tragedies in Britain: Sarah Payne, Jamie Bulger. I waited with everyone when Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, angels in Manchester United T-shirts, went missing. Flying into Tampa, Florida 10 days or so into the crisis, I was heartbroken to learn from a US news network that their bodies had been found back home.
So it was with murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler, whose carefree face in news bulletins showing her at the ironing table I still remember. And it was the revelation that the News of the World hacked into her mobile phone for her voicemail messages while she was still officially missing, that proved to be the last straw. All in the name of scoops. The paper deleted her messages so the inbox would not fill up, giving relatives false hopes she might be still be alive, not to mention the clear hindrance to police investigations. NotW similarly meddled with the phones of the July 7 London bombings and their families.
The UK Guardian broke the news of the Millie Dowler hacking on Monday July 4 and by the close of the week, the NotW was history. The British public had long tolerated politicians and celebrities being hacked but drew the line at ordinary victims of crime, and good for them.
The Independent: One Shocking revelation - and the paper was gone