After the shock announcement that News International will be shutting the doors at the News of the World effective this Sunday, the National Union of Journalists has produced a statement deploring this response to the phone hacking scandal. This drastic action seems designed to take all the heat off the executives and senior editorial figures that were really at fault, and make the low paid and overworked hacks manning the trenches foot the bill.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary said: “This shows the depths to which Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants at News International are prepared to stoop. The announcement James Murdoch should be making today is the dismissal of Rebekah Brookes as chief executive of News International. The shocking revelations this week show beyond doubt the systemic abuse and corruption at the top of the operation ran by both Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. Yet News International has persistently lied about the extent of this scandal and tried to pass it off as a problem created by a couple of rogue reporters.
“Closing the title and sacking over 200 staff in the UK and Ireland, and putting scores more freelances and casuals out of a job, is an act of utter cynical opportunism. Murdoch is clearly banking on this drawing a line under the scandal, removing an obstacle to the BskyB deal, and letting his senior executives off the hook. That simply won’t wash. It is not ordinary working journalists who have destroyed this paper’s credibility – it is the actions of Murdoch’s most senior people.
“James Murdoch was absolutely right when he said in his statement today that ‘Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad.’ Yet those wrongdoers are still there today, at the top of the News International empire and ordinary staff at the paper are paying with their livelihoods.
“The closure of the News of the World – a newspaper that has been in print now for 168 years – is a calculated sacrifice by Rupert Murdoch to salvage his reputation and that of News International, in the hope that readers will switch allegiance to a new seven-day operation at The Sun, the government will wave through the BskyB deal and he will widen his grip on the UK’s media landscape.
“It is ironic that 25 years after the Wapping dispute it is the behaviour of Rupert Murdoch and his management that has caused the closure of the newspaper. The NUJ will offer all support to its members at the News of the World facing compulsory redundancies and will be organising an emergency meeting of all journalists at the title to offer advice and support.”
Update: It appears that sub-editors at The Sun have walked out in solidarity with their comrades losing their jobs at the News of the World. Over 200 workers have been told that they will receive a payment to cover the statutory 90 days consultation period, and then get the privilege of applying for a handful of positions at NI.
Any NUJ comrades who have the time and opportunity should get down to the Wapping demo tomorrow, and take handfuls of union registration forms with you.