The final edition of The News of the World, which was shuttered after new hacking allegations came to light. Photo credit: Archie Thomas
The Sun on Sunday will be launched next weekend as the successor to the defunct News of the World, which was closed down last July following revelations of phone hacking at News International’s tabloid. The announcement was made on the Sun’s website late on Sunday and was the front page story in its Monday edition. The announcement, which come sooner than anticipated, has sparked frenzied speculation from the media commentariat about what to expect from the (sort of) new Sunday tabloid.
Rupert Murdoch, who took the extraordinary decision to close the News of the World, is in London and will remain in the English capital to oversee the publication of the new title, which is expected to be a seventh day of The Sun rather than a separate, standalone newspaper, reported The Guardian. Murdoch arrived in London last Friday to deal with a mounting crisis at News International; The Sun has been rocked by the arrests of ten current and former senior reporters and executives since November over alleged corrupt payments to public officials
In a morale-boosting email to staff, News International‘s chief executive Tom Mockridge said: “As you know, News Corporation has made clear its determination to sort out what has gone wrong in the past and we are fundamentally changing how we operate as a business. The commitment of News Corporation to invest in a new edition is the strongest possible message of support we could wish for … This is our moment. I am sure every one of us will seize the opportunity to pull together and deliver a great new dawn for the Sun this Sunday.”
“No mention of whether the Sun on Sunday will have Page 3. Too much to hope Murdoch experiments in dropping that?” wondered Jonathan Haynes of The Guardian on Twitter.
Shifting focus away from criminality? The Guardian said that the “timing of the launch will take the focus of attention off alleged criminality at News International. On 27 February, the day after the paper launches, singer Charlotte Church is taking the publisher to the high court over alleged phone hacking by the News of the World. She is one of 60 public figures, sports people, politicians and celebrities who took civil action against News International, but the only one currently scheduled go to full trial after 54 other litigants including Steve Coogan, Jude Law and Sadie Frost decided to settle out of court.” The newspaper reminded that on “the same day, the Leveson inquiry into press standards will also resume, putting the police relationship with newspapers under scrutiny for the second module of the public investigation.”
“Sun on Sunday? This is a relaunch of NOTW,” insisted Political Scrapbook via Twitter.
News Corp could still discard its UK newspapers. James Alan Anslow, who worked as a senior journalist on The Sun and The News of the World for nearly 30 years and now lectures in journalism at City University London, told Huffington Post UK that the move is Murdoch’s “desperate last throw of the dice” - and it doesn’t guarantee that The Sun, The Sunday Times and The Times are safe. “I still would not place any bets against News Corp walking away from the UK newspapers at some point. It might be post Rupert, and that can’t be very far away,” said Anslow, who insisted, “they’re not launching a newspaper, they’re launching an edition of a newspaper.” “What this all comes down to is in terms of pure newspaper business, News International would be mad not to run a seventh edition of The Sun, just as there is on The Telegraph, The Mail, The Express, The Star and The Times – and, in many ways, The Guardian.”
“Apart from the Telegraph, The Sun has the best line-up of journalists on Fleet Street. Can’t wait to see what they do with a Sunday edition,” tweeted Robbie Collin of, you guessed it, The Telegraph.
Sun should look to Twitter for inspiration. “The Sun needs to reinvent itself – less bullying, more of the zany fun of Twitter,” recommended Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker. Although Brooker expressed his distaste for the Sun’s “bullying” via a poem on the The 10 O’Clock Live TV show, in his column he acknowledged that the tabloid has “always tried to make things fun. At its best that’s a catchy punning headline (‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?’), at its worst it’s GOTCHA: the difference between clever class clown and ugly playground taunting. If, as some believe, the Sun needs to rehabilitate itself in what I will now preposterously label the post-hacking era, it’ll have to learn to avoid the latter.” “Never mind Twitter being a liberal coffeehouse;” said Brooker, “it also fulfils many of the Sun’s traditional roles. It’s brimming with news, celebrity gossip, zany trivia, jokes, opinion, hysteria, campaigns, witch-hunts, sanctimony and self-congratulation – and it’s written in the brisk, compact language of today, not the slightly alien ROMP / TOT / HORROR SMASH language of yesteryear.”