What an incredible few days. The PCC’s statement yesterday was extraordinary – even if it turns out to be merely a cosmetic exercise. Today’s announcement that the News of the World will end as a brand is, as its mooted replacement would say, a “stunner”.
It took almost exactly 3 days – 72 hours – to kill off a 168-year-old brand. Yes, there were other allegations and two years in the lead up to The Guardian’s revelation that Milly Dowler was targeted by the newspaper. But Milly Dowler and the various other ordinary people who happened to be caught up in newsworthy events (kidnappings, victims of terrorist attacks, families of dead soldiers), were what turned the whole affair.
That story was published at 16.29 on Monday. Incredible.
We talk a lot about the disintermediation of the press – the fact that companies, governments and celebrities can communicate directly with the public. The targeting of the News Of The World’s advertisers, and the rapid mobilisation of thousands of signatures supporting an inquiry, demonstrated that that disintermediation works the other way too. Where once the media could have acted as a dampener on how public protest appeared to advertisers and Parliament, their powers to do so now are more limited. [UPDATE: Paul Mason puts this particularly well here]
So while The Sun may be moving to 7-day production, that doesn’t make this a rebranding or a relaunch. As of Monday, The News of the World brand is dead, 168 years of journalistic history (not to mention 200 jobs) offered up as a sacrifice.
Whether that sacrifice is accepted, and to what extent, is yet to be seen. In the meantime, the significance of this shouldn’t be underestimated.