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Piece of British newspaper history comes to end

world Updated: Jul 10, 2011 18:58 IST

PTI
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Passionate readers trooped into corner shops on Sunday to pick up the last edition of the 168-year-old 'News of the World' tabloid, as Rupert Murdoch arrived here to take charge of his UK media empire amid a controversy that his company used illegal news gathering practices.

Priced at one pound, the collector's edition described itself on the cover as 'The world's greatest newspaper, 1843-2011,' and signed off with the simple words: 'Thank you & goodbye' against a collage of its well known past front pages.

"Thank you & goodbye," the front page headline in the last edition said today, days after Rupert's son James Murdoch, chairman of News International who owned the tabloid, decided to shut down the paper in the face of the raging phone hacking scandal, where money was swapped for scoops.

There were tears and hugs as journalists left their office on Saturday night after producing the final edition of what is described as an "astonishing paper (that) became part of the fabric of Britain, as central to Sunday as a roast dinner."

Rupert, 80, is expected to deal with the crisis prompted by latest revelations about News of the World's hacking into the phones of victims of crime and terrorism, and kin of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, for information to be used in sensational stories in the tabloid.

He has condemned as "deplorable and unacceptable" the allegations that the paper hacked into mobile phones of relatives of murdered children and victims of the London bombings.

"Quite simply, we lost our way," this is what the final editorial in Britain's most selling tabloid had to say to its 7.5 million loyal readers on winding up its operations.

For well over a century and a half, the tabloid had became part of the fabric of Britain, as central to Sunday as a roast dinner, the editorial noted.

Extolled by celebrated writer-journalist George Orwell as a part of British culture, the tabloid reproduced his famous quote: "It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair and the children have been sent out for a nice walk.

"You put your feet up on sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose and open the News of the World."

Editor Colin Myler said in his last memo to staff, "It's not where we want to be and it's not where we deserve to be. But I know we will produce a paper to be proud of."

Given the wide interest sparked off by the phone-hacking row, newspaper vendors had ordered extra copies for sale.

Ed Miliband, Labour leader, today demanded that Murdoch drop his bid for the satellite broadcasting firm BSkyB takeover until the inquiries into the row is over.

He also asked Prime Minister David Cameron to ensure that the takeover is not approved until the inquiries are over.

"He (Cameron) has got to understand that when the public have seen the disgusting revelations that we have seen this week, the idea that this organisation, which engaged in these terrible practices, should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100 per cent stake, without the criminal investigation having been completed and on the basis of assurances from that self-same organisation - frankly that just won't wash with the public," Miliband told BBC.

He said his party will force a vote in the House Commons to delay the News Corporation's proposed takeover of BSkyB.

Meanwhile, the tabloid, known for its astonishing scoops and entertainment news, today carried advertisements of mainly charity organisations, and a line on the front page said that 'profits from this historic edition will go to charity.'

"We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards," its editorial noted.

"Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry. There is no justification for this appalling wrong-doing. No justification for the pain caused to victims, nor for the deep stain it has left on a great history," the editorial said.

"Yet when this outrage has been atoned, we hope history will eventually judge us on all our years," it hoped.

The paper also welcomed the two public inquiries announced by Prime Minister David Cameron, one into the police handling of the case and another into the ethics and standards of the Press.

However, it did not agree to the move to disband the Press Complaint Commission (PCC), saying it would be a disaster for British democracy and for a free press.

"... we do not agree that the Press Complaints Commission should be disbanded. Self-regulation does work. But the current make-up of the PCC doesn't work. It needs more powers and more resources. We do not need government legislation," the editorial said.

"That would be a disaster for our democracy and for a free Press," it said.

To its 7.5 million readers, the paper said: "Thank you for your support. We'll miss you more than words can express. Farewell."