The media on trial

Without being drawn into the details behind the closing down of the 168-year old News of the World yesterday, the fallout has undoubtedly raised some interesting talking points.

The redundancy of over 200 journalists yesterday must have been particularly unpalatable for them, particularly as it was announced by Rebekah Brooks - whose position as chief executive of News International has become increasingly untenable.

The timing and logistics of the announcement were unfortunate too.  The world’s media was camped outside NOTW headquarters, and rapidly received and broadcast the stories of angry and frustrated staff.  As the narrative unfolds, it is pretty clear that the hunters have become the hunted. 

James Murdoch’s public backing of his chief executive did little appease the appetite to dig deeper into the allegations that illegal practices had been institutionalised.

More broadly, an interesting shift seemed to occur in the balance of trust between politicians and the media. David Cameron publicly took full responsibility for the appointment of ex-NOTW editor Andy Coulson as his Director of Communications. As the BBC’s Nick Robinson wrote – he ‘put himself on probation’ – a job usually reserved for the media as self-designated arbiters of public opinion. Meanwhile, Britain’s largest newspaper – famed for calling wrongdoers to account – was attempting to salvage anything it could from its own wreckage.

Time will tell whether things could have been better handled as we wait to see the exact roles those implicated in the phone hacking scandal played. What is clear though is that News International has much more than a simple re-branding exercise on its hands if it is to repeat the undoubted and sustained success the News of the World enjoyed.

Kay Williamson