Sunday isn’t the same …

I still miss my afternoon of celebrity bonks, fake sheiks and general weirdness in the form of the News of the World. I still argue that it’s desperately sad to see a 168-year-old newspaper close.

I found reading the scoops much more entertaining than listening to Alan Partridge and Mungo whinge about what a hard time they have of it – although the Leveson Inquiry is must-see TV.

Back in July The Guardian headline read: NEWS OF THE WORLD HACKED MILLY DOWLER’S PHONE DURING POLICE HUNT with the sub-heading Paper deleted missing schoolgirl’s voicemails, giving family false hope.

The contempt towards NotW journalists was venomous. In fact, I read comparisons made to Nazis on Twitter for anyone who decided to work for News International – which is as ridiculous as blaming a town hall cleaner in a Labour city for the war in Iraq.

Not just journalists lost out in July, there would likely be PAs, cleaners, copytakers, editorial assistants, runners, couriers, freelance art designers and many more on the list of those punished for the phones of crime victims, celebrities and politicians being hacked.

There were jokes about strangling journalists, they were dismissed as scum and the entire industry loathed for deleting messages of a murdered schoolgirl which led her desperate parents to believe she was still alive.

I remember reading the headline myself, my stomach lurching as I imagined how they must have felt when they were given false hope only for it to be dashed so cruelly and shockingly.

Now we’re now told it’s not true: News of the World journalists didn’t delete the messages that meant false hope for Milly Dowler’s mum and dad.

The Guardian reports:

“It is understood that while News of the World reporters probably were responsible for deleting some of the missing girl’s messages, police have concluded that they were not responsible for the particular deletion which caused her family to have false hope that she was alive.

Detectives told Milly’s parents in April that the paper’s journalists had intercepted and deleted messages on the murdered teenager’s phone. Evidence has now revealed that Milly’s phone would automatically delete messages 72 hours after being listened to.

This means the paper’s journalists would have inadvertently caused some voicemails to be deleted after they began listening to them, but police found that some messages had also been deleted before the News of the World began hacking into her voicemail.”

The reality is, though, some still hacked a dead girl’s phone for a story in a profit-driven newspaper: this can’t be defended with the argument that they didn’t read and delete specific messages.

Back then we’re told there were 4,000 possible targets but now we’re told it’s more likely 800: again, the original story is inaccurate but the actions still can’t be defended.

The Guardian should print an apology and publish a correction because they simply got it wrong: but the News of the World wouldn’t be saved, this revelation wouldn’t make any difference to the outcome five months ago.

The apology and correction from the Guardian should be part of the discussion at the Leveson Inquiry, not lost amid the line-up of minor celebrities and their self-publicising whinge: but even this won’t stop the damage to the reputation of our trade.

We can’t cling to this shred of information to defend what was still widespread hacking to get stories to make money for Murdoch. We can’t defend the indefensible.

We can though recognise that the reasons for closing the News of the World weren’t moral outrage by its owners, fears of a permanent ad revenue loss, or a drop in readership following the Guardian investigation – Murdoch’s priority back then was his BSkyB bid and that was his reason for closure, not fearing an investigation by a broadsheet.

We can also choose to put the blame for the hacking, the closure, the job losses and the mistrust of our trade and our journalist colleagues where it should be – firmly at the feet of money-grubbing News International bosses.


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