Britain’s News of the World was published for the last time on Sunday after the tabloid was axed amid the phone-hacking scandal, as its owner Rupert Murdoch flew in to take charge of managing the crisis.
After 168 years of scoops and scandals, Britain’s top-selling weekly newspaper hit newsstands for the final time with the headline “Thank You and Goodbye.”
While most of the paper was dedicated to celebrating the newspaper’s many world exclusives and campaigns, it also included an apology to readers in an editorial, which said: “Quite simply, we lost our way.”
But the decision to axe the paper is unlikely to end the row, and as Murdoch arrived in London there were fresh calls for his News Corp.’s bid to take full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB to be delayed.
Opposition Labour party leader Ed Miliband demanded that the deal be postponed, saying the public would not accept that a group which engaged in “terrible practices” be allowed to take over BSkyB before a police probe was complete.
Late Saturday, News of the World editor Colin Myler led staff out of its offices in Wapping, east London, after an emotional day preparing the final edition.
“I want to pay tribute to this wonderful team of people here, who, after a really difficult day, have produced in a brilliantly professional way a wonderful newspaper,” Myler told reporters outside.
More than 200 staff now face an uncertain future after Murdoch’s shock decision on Thursday to axe the paper, and while Myler’s comments sparked cheers, some people were in tears.
He held up the final front page, a montage of some of the paper’s best-known splashes and a message saying: “After 168 years, we finally say a sad but very proud farewell to our 7.5 million loyal readers.”
Inside, he charted the paper’s finest moments under the banner “World’s Greatest Newspaper — 1843-2011”, from investigations by the “Fake Sheikh” to a controversial campaign against paedophiles.
But the editorial also admitted that for a few years up to 2006, some of its employees had fallen “shamefully short” of the standards it sought to uphold.
“Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry,” it said.
Despite public anger over the hacking, Britons were snapping up the final copy of the paper as a souvenir.
The usual print run was doubled to five million copies, and sales of first editions were brisk. “I sold 50 in the first five minutes,” one vendor in central London told AFP.
The “Screws”, as the News of the World is affectionately known, made its name with sensational scoops about sex, crime and celebrities.
But it has been dogged by allegations of phone hacking for years and claims this week that a murdered girl and the families of dead soldiers were targeted turned the row into a national scandal.
Murdoch flew in from the United States on Sunday and arrived at the Wapping headquarters of News International, his British newspaper arm that published the News of the World, reading the final copy of the paper as he was driven into the premises.
He has flown in to personally take charge of the crisis that has felled the paper whose acquisition laid the foundations for his media empire.
The hacking scandal has put pressure on News Corp.’s to take full control of pay-TV giant BSkyB, and some have seen the closure of the News of the World as a sacrifice to help the deal.
The government has reportedly decided to delay a decision, which had been expected in the coming days, until September due to the scandal.
Miliband ratcheted up the pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday to postpone News Corp.’s bid to buy the 61 percent of BSkyB it does not already own.
The deal must be delayed following the “disgusting revelations” about the “terrible practices” at the News of the World, he said.
The idea that News Corp. “should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100 percent stake, without the criminal investigation having been completed… frankly that just won’t wash with the public,” he told BBC television.
Pressure on Cameron has intensified since after the arrest on Friday of Andy Coulson, the prime minister’s former media chief and ex-News of the World editor, on suspicion of involvement in phone hacking and illegal police payments.
Cameron employed Coulson after he quit the News of the World in 2007, following the jailing of one of the paper’s journalists and a private investigator over hacking.
Coulson has always denied wrongdoing, but he was forced to resign as Cameron’s director of communications in January this year because of ongoing hacking revelations. After his arrest on Friday, he was bailed until October.