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Not the end of world

world Updated: Jul 12, 2011 00:51 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

It must be a hard thing to write your own obituary.

The residents of an English village, Lydiard Millicent, were asked by the editor of the local parish magazine this year to write up their own obituaries and send them over "in good time."

She was finding it hard to keep up with the number of deaths.

The response, apparently, was distinctly underwhelming.

Art historian David Cruishank once had his obituary read to him by the BBC's obituarist and wrote later that despite the "shocking finality" of the experience, "on balance, I can say it pretty successfully did the job of pricking my bubble of vanity."

It was with a mixture of pride, tabloid vanity and guilt that the 'News of the World' wrote its obituary last Sunday, admitting: "we lost our way" after 168 years of publishing.

The decision by Rupert Murdoch and/or his son James to close down the paper was cruel, over the top and designed to impress critics - that at least is the view held by many British journalists.

Rupert Murdoch's British critics are legion: they include labour unions he helped to emasculate in the 1980s, current leaders of the Labour party whom he ditched at the last general election, old-style Conservatives who have been never liked his sway over British life, Liberal Democrats who practically hate him, Labour-supporting 'Guardian' and 'Observer' newspapers, the taxpayer-funded BBC and members the royal family.

So that's pretty much everybody in British public life other than Prime Minister Cameron and some of his front bench.

But if any of them thought that Murdoch was about to ride into the sunset, they are mistaken.

Practices like listening into voice messages are common not only at the 'News of the World', but in many other papers, including the Labour-supporting 'Daily Mirror.'

The results - sensational scoops - have been lapped up by their readers.

The fact remains that key British politicians remain thoroughly embedded with the Murdoch media empire, relying upon it to sway public opinion in their favour.

This is not Britain's fin de siècle moment: the 'News of the World' may well be reborn as the 'Sun on Sunday'.

The Australian media baron's revolution is too deeply rooted in Britain, even if his senior executives stand chastened about their choice of targets.