Friday, July 8, 2011

What price Rebekah Brooks?

When I wrote yesterday about whether the NOTW could survive or whether it may close given the public outcry over the phone hacking scandal as the extent to which this had spread into the lives of us all became apparent I was accused of being over-dramatic and also hamming the situation up and that inevitably it would all blow over....

In almost any other circumstance or situation it would have blown over and the headline writers would focus on the next scandal; but this is a News International scandal and if past performances were a guide to future outcomes it was never going to play by the rule book.

But this was no ordinary company closure and to cap it all and to end the most bizarre of days, the one and only Rebekah Brooks, to many one of the key players in the scandal, was the person charged with standing up in front of the staff and making the announcement that this Sunday's NOTW would be the last.

I think many of us would struggle to write a script with such imagination.

Whilst we can all focus on the corporate machinations surrounding the decision, the situation with the BSkyB bid and how much wrong has been done in the past by the paper, in the here and now 200 NOTW employees have lost their jobs as a result of the perceived failure of the board to handle certain key players in the whole sorry scandal.

And then there is the commercial motive behind the decision; advertisers were clambering for the exit as the brand value of the NOTW sank through the floor and any subsequent association with it quickly became a poisoned chalice.

What must sadden people who are or have been associated with the paper though must be both the pace of its demise and that many of the good things the paper has achieved over the years will be lost as it becomes consigned to the history books.

When the newspaper 'Today', Britain's first colour newspaper and also part of the News International group, ceased production in 1995 it went with a whimper and in truth many people didn't even notice, such was its lack of influence and impact on the world of news at the time.

But this is different, love it or hate it, the NOTW did have an impact on British news and culture.

Its many campaigns, such as the one supporting Sarah's Law, were responsible for helping shape the law in this country and protect parents with young children by giving them access to the sex offenders register.

Although not without controversy, the Fake Sheikh, the undercover reporter whose exploits are said to have brought over 250 criminals to justice as well as exposing the odd England football manager along the way, are further examples of some of the good the paper did.

But all of this will be washed away as the headline writers will focus only on the key movers and shakers in the scandal, some if which seem determined to back each other to hilt.

Watching the statement made by James Murdoch defending Rebekah Brooks will I'm sure, make people wonder what exactly she has to do that will be considered morally and ethically wrong in the eyes of the company.

Many questions remain unanswered and just how deep the public enquiry will go to find answers is going to be interesting as many stakeholders in this scandal are yet to be named, exposed and shoved into the media spotlight.

Some comment that this is a victory for the British public however I think this is incorrect; the NOTW was the most read of all the Sunday papers and continued to entertain and brighten up many peoples Sundays right up to the very end.

The controversies were always there ,as were the court cases and the salacious scandals that would rock the celebrity or political world to its core for a few days; and then it was business as usual and people moved on.

But the depth to which the main players in the phone hacking scandal sank significantly up the stakes and it is apparent that the British public cannot move on from this; understandably so.

At this moment in time the only winner appears to be Rebekah Brooks because, at least on the surface, she has managed to preside over the closure of 168 years of newspaper history and deprive 200 people of a job; that is quite some sacrificial lamb and whether it was worth it only time will tell.

As for the future of the NOTW, well I believe there will be a time when new owners and a new attitude can prevail and hopefully it can return to the stands in the not too distant future.

However if NI think the Sun on Sunday or whatever else they plan to replace it with will work I would suggest they think again as guilt by association is difficult to shake and anything with an NI stamp of ownership on it is going to become something of a pariah as this scandal rolls on.

You can follow me on Twitter @mcollinsblog

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