The News of the World was politically and culturally demonised as a media institution that required liquidation, claims Tim Crook, senior lecturer in media law and ethics at the department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Crook, in a paper for the Oxford University conference hosted by Reuters' Institute on 'Journalism Ethics', claims the attack on the News of the World was waged by the "so-called broadsheet, middle class and elitist media institutions."
Crook writes: "The destruction of a 168 year old newspaper that happened to be the United Kingdom’s most successful newspaper in terms of circulation, profits and operating a viable paywall for popular tabloid journalism needs reflection and analysis.
"The agents of its liquidation were the moral panic phenomenon that intriguingly was first philosophically analysed by John Stuart Mill in respect of the tyranny of the majority, amplified by an inaccurate and outrageous allegation that journalists on the paper had hypothetically risked the life of a 13 year old abducted teenager by deleting active evidence in a live police enquiry, combined with the decision of a contemporary media baron, living abroad to close it down for politico-economic expediency.
"There was no consultation with its readership, which in the democratic tradition of free media represents the infrastructure of the operating right of communicating and receiving information. Over two million eight hundred thousand people bought the paper every Sunday; considerably more read it, 200 professional journalists were employed in its production, and its weekly turnover was around three million pounds.
"The anti-News of the World campaigners targeted the paper’s advertisers to cripple and punish it, a notorious tactic used by black-listing organisations during the anti-Communist Cold-War witch hunts to bully US media institutions to cancel the contracts and dismiss reporters, writers, and artists who had been smeared by secret dossier.
"The attack on the News of the World and its largely working class and lower middle class culture of readership has been waged by the so-called broadsheet, middle class and elitist media institutions who have seen fit to morally proselytise its failings as the refuge for what has been described as the prurient, disgusting, tawdry, cheap, pornographic, voyeuristic, exploitative, lust-gorging, dirty, smelly, perverted, indecent, and inferior class of low-life under-class individual."
Crook adds: "What has been so undemocratic about this narrative is that the newspaper never had a chance to consult and converse with its readership about the contextual ‘Hackgate’ scandal, nor rehabilitate itself. It has disappeared in a whoosh of self-destructive combustion where the barbecue lighters have been operated largely by people who have nothing socially and culturally to do with its market and readership.
He concludes: "In reality the News of the World was a great newspaper in the democratic tradition."
Crook says the News of the World can be criticised for being "scandalous, cruel, human dignity exploiting when its reporting conduct and publication moral wrongs and legal infractions are evaluated" but "in the totality of its social operation it provided entertainment, information, enlightenment, escape, catharsis and comfort for people not as lucky and advantaged as the celebrocrats, and politico-economic elite. It was written and designed in style, clarity, precision, skill, and its campaigning delivered compensation and remedies that have been rarely equalled by its equivalents in the ‘broadsheet’ market."