Journalists at the News of the World have put to bed the scandal-ridden tabloid's last edition Saturday, as one of its editors mourned its demise as a "tragedy."
The paper has signed off with a simple front page message: THANK YOU & GOODBYE.
It also bears an epitaph, "the world's greatest newspaper 1843 - 2011" and a smaller headline with the words: "After 168 years, we finally say a sad but very proud farewell to our 7.5m loyal readers."
The sudden closure of the 168-year-old muckraking tabloid has resulted in dozens of journalists not involved in the burgeoning phone-hacking affair losing their jobs, News of the World deputy political editor Jamie Lyons told CBC News Network on Saturday.
"There are hundreds of journalists here who have been disgusted and appalled by the allegations," Lyons said, in reference to the phone-hacking scandal that rocked the paper and its parent company News International, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
"It is indefensible … but that was conducted by a small group of people who are no longer at this newspaper."
Following the production of Sunday's final edition, 280 reporters, editors and support staff will be out of their jobs.
A handful of staff handed out tea to reporters gathered outside the paper's London headquarters on Saturday, while the tabloid's political editor David Wooding tweeted that most people in the office were wearing black.
The paper's editor, Colin Myler, was sullen as he made his way to the paper's offices in east London. The paper is doubling its print run to five million.
"It's a very sad day," Myler told reporters. "I'm thinking about my team of talented journalists."
In another development, Murdoch, who has largely kept silent since the scandal broke, is expected to arrive in London on a scheduled visit on Sunday.
The 80-year-old media titan provided a brief statement Saturday at a media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, saying it was a "collective decision" to shut the paper down.
Murdoch and his executives have been under increasing pressure following allegations News of the World journalists paid police for information and hacked into the voicemails of young murder victims, celebrities and the grieving families of dead soldiers.
Murdoch hopes to save deal
The revelations of the new allegations sparked a firestorm of outrage and saw the tabloid's advertisers pull out en masse, prompting News International — a subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corp. — to jettison the paper on Thursday in hopes of saving its $18.5-billion Cdn deal to take over satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting.
But the British government has signalled the deal would be delayed because of the crisis and the scandal has continued to unfold with the announcement of three arrests linked to the matter on Friday.
Andy Coulson — a former News of the World editor and former communications chief to Prime Minister David Cameron — was arrested Friday, as was Clive Goodman, an ex-News of the World royals reporter, and another unidentified 63-year-old man. All three have since been released on bail.
The developments have turned up the heat on Britain's media industry amid concerns a police investigation won't stop with the News of the World.
It has also cast new scrutiny on the cozy relationship between British politicians and the powerful Murdoch empire, putting the media baron's company on the defensive.
Many journalists and media watchers have expressed astonishment that Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of News of the World when some of the hacking allegedly occurred, was retaining her job as head of News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper operations while the paper's 200 reporters and editors were laid off along with 80 support staff.
When asked by reporters Saturday in Idaho whether Brooks, 43, continues to have his support, Murdoch replied: "Total."
Murdoch's son, James, has been the public face of the scandal, announcing the tabloid's closure and acknowledging mistakes over the years in addressing indiscretions.