News of the World

News of the World

Front page of the final issue
Type Weekly newspaper
Format Tabloid
Owner(s) News Group Newspapers
(News International)
Editor Colin Myler
Founded 1 October 1843 (1843-10-01)
Ceased publication 10 July 2011 (2011-07-10)
Headquarters Wapping, London
Circulation 2,606,397 (April 2011)[1]
Sister newspapers The Sun,[2] The Times, The Sunday Times[3]
Website Inactive, no longer updated

The News of the World was a national red top newspaper published in the United Kingdom from 1843 to 2011. It was at one time the biggest-selling English-language newspaper in the world, and at closure still had one of the highest English-language circulations.[4] It was originally established as a broadsheet by John Browne Bell, who identified crime, sensation and vice as the themes that would sell copies.[5] The Bells sold to Henry Lascelles Carr in 1891; in 1969 it was bought from the Carrs by Rupert Murdoch's media firm News Limited. Reorganised into News International, itself a subsidiary of News Corporation, it was transformed into a tabloid in 1984 and became the Sunday sister paper of The Sun. The newspaper concentrated on celebrity-based scoops and populist news. Its fondness for sex scandals gained it the nicknames News of the Screws and Screws of the World.[6] It had a reputation for exposing national or local celebrities' drug use, sexual peccadilloes, or criminal acts, setting up insiders and journalists in disguise to provide either video or photographic evidence, and phone hacking in ongoing police investigations.[7][8] Sales averaged 2,812,005 copies per week in October 2010.[9]

From 2006, allegations of phone hacking began to engulf the newspaper. These culminated in the revelation on 4 July 2011 that, nearly a decade earlier, a private investigator hired by the newspaper had intercepted the voicemail of missing British teenager Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered. A Scotland Yard spokesperson later admitted at the Leveson Inquiry that it had not been a private investigator who had deleted Dowler's voicemail.

Amid a public backlash and the withdrawal of advertising, News International announced the closure of the newspaper on 7 July 2011.[8][10] The scandal deepened when the paper was alleged to have hacked into the phones of families of British service personnel killed in action. Senior figures on the newspaper have been held for questioning by police investigating the phone hacking and corruption allegations. Arrested on 8 July 2011 were former editor Andy Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, the latter jailed for phone hacking in 2007. The former executive editor Neil Wallis was arrested on 15 July 2011 and former editor Rebekah Brooks, the tenth person held in custody, on 17 July 2011.

On a visit to London on 17 February 2012, Murdoch announced he was soon to launch a Sunday edition of The Sun, which acted as a replacement to the News of the World. On 19 February 2012 it was announced that the first edition of The Sun on Sunday would be printed on 26 February 2012.[11] It would employ some former News of the World journalists.


Front page of the first issue

1843 to 1968

The newspaper was first published as The News of the World on 1 October 1843, by John Browne Bell in London.[12] Priced at three pence (equal to £1.11 today), even before the repeal of the Stamp Act (1855) or paper duty (1861), it was the cheapest newspaper of its time[13] and was aimed directly at the newly literate working classes. It quickly established itself as a purveyor of titillation, shock, and criminal news. Much of the source material came from coverage of vice prosecutions, including transcripts of police descriptions of alleged brothels, streetwalkers, and "immoral" women.

Before long, the News of the World established itself as the most widely read Sunday paper, with initial sales of around 12,000 copies a week. Sales then suffered because the price was not cut following the abolition of newspaper taxes and the paper was soon no longer among the leading Sunday titles, selling around 30,000 by 1880, a greater number but a smaller proportion, as newspaper sales had grown hugely. The title was sold by the Bell family in 1891 to Henry Lascelles Carr who owned the Welsh Western Mail. As editor, he installed his nephew Emsley Carr, who held the post for 50 years. The real engine of the paper's now quick commercial success, however, was George Riddell, who reorganised its national distribution using local agents. Matthew Engel, in his book Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press (Gollancz, 1996), says that the News of the World of the 1890s was "a very fine paper indeed". The paper was not without its detractors, though. As one writer later related:

Frederick Greenwood, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, met in his club one day Lord Riddell, who died a few years ago, and in the course of conversation Riddell said to him, "You know, I own a paper."

"Oh, do you?" said Greenwood, "what is it?"

"It's called the News of the World—I'll send you a copy", replied Riddell, and in due course did so. Next time they met Riddell said, "Well Greenwood, what do you think of my paper?"

"I looked at it", replied Greenwood, "and then I put it in the waste-paper basket. And then I thought, 'If I leave it there the cook may read it'—so I burned it!"[14]

By 1912, the circulation was two million and around three million by the early 1920s. Sales reached four million by 1939. This success encouraged other similar newspapers, of which the Sunday People, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror are still being published.

In 1928, the paper began printing in Manchester on the presses of the News Chronicle in Derby Street, moving in 1960 into Thomson House, Withy Grove (formerly known as Kemsley House) when the News Chronicle closed. The move to Thomson House led to the immediate closure of the Empire News, a paper printed there and mainly circulating in the North of England and Wales with a circulation of about 2.5 million. Officially the Empire News and News of the World merged but Thomson House was already printing the Sunday Pictorial (to become the Sunday Mirror) and Sunday Times and did not have any further capacity with the News of the World arriving.

An advert for the News of the World in Dublin in 1969

The paper's motto was "All human life is there". The paper's name was linked with sports events as early as 1903 when the golfing tournament The News of the World Match Play Championship began (now under British PGA auspices). The News of the World Darts Championship existed from 1927 on a regional basis and became a national tournament from 1947 to 1990. There was also a News of the World Championship in snooker from 1950 to 1959 which eclipsed the official professionals' competition for a number of years. In athletics, the Emsley Carr Mile race was started in 1953 in memory of the former editor, and is still run annually. The paper's Football Annual was a long-standing publication, and a Household Guide and Almanac was also published at one time.

By 1950, the News of the World had become the biggest-selling newspaper in the world with a weekly sale of 8,441,000 and individual editions sold over 9 million copies.

Murdoch ownership

The newspaper passed into the hands of Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd. in 1969, following an acrimonious year-long struggle with Robert Maxwell's Pergamon Press. Maxwell's Czech origin, combined with his political opinions, provoked a hostile response to his bid from the Carrs and from the editor of the News of the World, Stafford Somerfield, who declared in an October 1968 front page leading article attacking Maxwell[15] that the paper was "as British as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding".[16]

News Ltd. arranged to swap shares in some of its minor ventures with the Carrs and by December it controlled 40% of the NOTW stock. Maxwell had been supported by the Jackson family (25% shareholders), but Murdoch had gained the support of the Carr family (30%) and then-chairman William Carr.

In January 1969, Maxwell's bid was rejected at a shareholders' meeting where half of those present were company staff, temporarily given voting shares. It was Murdoch's first Fleet Street acquisition. Maxwell accused Murdoch of employing "the laws of the jungle" to acquire the paper and said he had "made a fair and bona fide offer... which has been frustrated and defeated after three months of [cynical] manoeuvring." Murdoch denied this, arguing the shareholders of the News of the World Group had "judged [his] record in Australia." Illness removed Sir William Carr from the chairmanship in June 1969, and Murdoch succeeded him.

Murdoch came under severe criticism in a television interview with David Frost after in late summer 1969 the newspaper published extracts from the memoirs of Christine Keeler, who had been a central figure of the Profumo scandal which had emerged to public scrutiny in 1963. Murdoch regretted agreeing to the interview with Frost.[17] In February 1970, Stafford Somerfield was sacked as editor after coming into conflict with Murdoch, whose takeover he had opposed.[18]

The newspaper often had to defend itself from libel charges and complaints to the Press Council (later the Press Complaints Commission) as a result of certain news-gathering techniques, such as entrapment, and contentious campaigns. Some of the best-known cases have been the "Bob and Sue" case with reporter Neville Thurlbeck, and various cases involving journalist Mazher Mahmood.[19][20]

From 1981 a magazine (Sunday) was included with the paper, and in 1984 the newspaper changed from broadsheet to tabloid format. The paper was printed in Hertfordshire, Liverpool, Dinnington near Sheffield, Portsmouth, Glasgow and Dublin, with a separate edition produced in Belfast. It was also printed at a number of sites abroad including Madrid, Brussels, Cyprus and Orlando in Florida, USA.

In 1985, the News of the World moved out of Thomson House when the building was bought by the tycoon Robert Maxwell (and renamed Maxwell House) and after a short spell on the Daily Express presses in Great Ancoats Street moved to a new plant at Knowsley on Merseyside.

In 2011 the then editor, Colin Myler, described his title as "the greatest newspaper in the world" as it won four awards at the British Press Awards. The main award was for News Reporter of the Year, going to Mazher Mahmood, the "fake sheikh" who hides his identity, for his expose of cricket corruption. The paper also won show-business reporter and magazine of the year. Some thought NOTW might have won the top award, Newspaper of the Year, if it were not for the phone-hacking saga. That was won by The Guardian, which had investigated the hacking scandal.[21]

End of publication

It was announced on 7 July 2011 that, after 168 years in print,[12] the newspaper would print its final edition on 10 July 2011 following revelations of the ongoing phone hacking scandal, with the loss of 200 jobs. The paper announced that all profits from the final edition – 74 pence out of the £1 cover price – would go to "good causes", and advertising space would be given to charities; the remaining 26 pence for each copy went to retailers selling the paper and to wholesalers.[22] Shutting the newspaper cost News Group Newspapers around £240m.[23]

Downing Street said it had no role in the decision.[24] James Murdoch has claimed that the company is fully co-operating with ongoing police investigations.[25]

The edition of 10 July 2011 of the News of the World carried its final headline, "Thank You & Goodbye", superimposed on top of a collage of past front pages. The back cover featured an out-of-context quote from George Orwell in 1946, and a recent quote from a NotW reader. The final edition also included a 48-page pullout documenting the history of the paper.[26] On 9 July 2011, after production of the final edition wrapped, editor Colin Myler led the staff out of the building, where he held a press conference thanking the staff and its readers, concluding, "In the best tradition, we are going to the pub."[27] In the paper's final editorial, the unsigned statement says that "Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry... there is no justification for this appalling wrongdoing."[22] The final edition sold 3.8 million copies, about a million more than usual.

There was soon speculation that News International would launch a Sunday edition of The Sun to replace the News of the World, and it did, on 26 February 2012.[28] The domain names, and were registered on 5 July 2011 by News International Newspapers Limited.[29]


1843: John Browne Bell
1855: John William Bell
1877: Walter John Bell and Adolphus William Bell
1891: Emsley Carr
1941: David Percy Davies
1946: Robert Skelton
1947: Arthur Waters
1953: Reg Cudlipp
1960: Stafford Somerfield
1970: Cyril Lear
1974: Peter Stephens
1975: Bernard Shrimsley
1980: Kenneth Donlan
1981: Barry Askew
1981: Derek Jameson
1984: Nicholas Lloyd
1985: David Montgomery
1987: Wendy Henry
1988: Patsy Chapman
1993: Stuart Higgins
1994: Piers Morgan
1995: Phil Hall
2000: Rebekah Wade
2003: Andy Coulson
2007: Colin Myler[30]

Notable contributors


"Chequebook" journalism

The paper became notorious for chequebook journalism,[33] as it was often discovered attempting to buy stories, typically concerning private affairs and relationships, of people closely involved with figures of public interest such as politicians, celebrities and high-profile criminals. With this intention, the paper on occasion paid key witnesses in criminal trials such as the 1966 Moors murders case,[34][35] and the 1999 trial of Gary Glitter on charges of assaulting an underage teenage fan.[36] See also Links to police corruption below.

Anti-paedophile campaign (2000)

The paper began a controversial campaign to name and shame alleged paedophiles in July 2000, following the abduction and murder of Sarah Payne in West Sussex. During the trial of her killer Roy Whiting, it emerged that he had a previous conviction for abduction and sexual assault against a child. The paper's decision led to some instances of action being taken against those suspected of being child sex offenders,[37] which included several cases of mistaken identity, including one instance where a paediatrician had her house vandalised[38] and another where a man was confronted because he had a neck brace similar to one a paedophile was wearing when pictured.[39][40] The campaign was labelled "grossly irresponsible" journalism by the then Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, Tony Butler.[41] The paper also campaigned for the introduction of 'Sarah's Law' to allow public access to the sex offender registry.

Phone hacking scandal

In 2006, reporters at the paper used private investigators to illegally gain access to hundreds of mobile phone voicemail accounts held by a variety of people of interest to the newspaper. In 2007 the paper's royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, pleaded guilty to illegal interception of personal communication and was jailed for four months; the paper's editor, Andy Coulson, had resigned two weeks earlier. In 2009/2010, further revelations emerged on the extent of the phone hacking, and how it was common knowledge within the News of the World and its News International parent. According to a former reporter at the paper, "Everyone knew. The office cat knew", about the illegal activities used to scoop stories.[42] On 17 January 2011, The Guardian reported that Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator paid by the paper, testified that he had been asked by the newspaper's leadership to hack voicemail accounts on its behalf.[43] In April 2011, attorneys for the victims alleged that as many as 7,000 people had their phones hacked by the News of the World;[44] it was further revealed that the paper's owner, Rupert Murdoch, had attempted to pressure Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Labour Party MPs to "back away" from investigating the scandal.[45] Three journalists on the newspaper were initially arrested: Ian Edmondson and Neville Thurlbeck on 5 April[46] and James Weatherup on 14 April.[47] The newspaper "unreservedly" apologised for its phone hacking activities during April 2011.[48] On 4 July 2011, it was disclosed that potential evidence had been deleted in spring 2002 from the hacked voicemail account of Milly Dowler, then missing, but later found to have been murdered.[49]

2006 reward for information on murders

On 13 December 2006 the newspaper announced that it was offering a record breaking reward of £250,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the murder of five prostitutes around Ipswich, Suffolk. The reward went unclaimed; Steve Wright was arrested on suspicion of murder six days later following the use of unrelated information to link him to the murders. He was found guilty of all five murders at his trial 14 months later and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Victoria Beckham 'kidnap plot'

In 2002, Mazher Mahmood, undercover reporter working for the News of the World, also known as the Fake Sheikh, allegedly exposed a plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham. Five men were arrested but the trial later collapsed when it emerged News of the World had paid its main witness Florim Gashi £10,000 to work with Mazher Mahmood. Florim Gashi later admitted working with Mahmood to set up the kidnap plot. This led to an investigation by Scotland Yard on News of the World called Operation Canopus.[50][51][52]

"Fake sheikh" cricket scandal

Main article: Mazher Mahmood

In August 2010, News of the World reporter and undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood posed as a "Fake Sheikh" to expose a cricket bookie named Mazhar Majeed who claimed Pakistani cricketers had committed spot-fixing during Pakistan's 2010 tour of England. In November 2011, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif were found guilty by a London court on criminal charges relating to spot-fixing. Mohammad Amir and Mahjeed had entered guilty pleas on the same charges.[53]

In a September 2010 interview broadcast on 7 July 2011 on the BBC Radio 4 news programme The World at One, former News of the World features editor Paul McMullan made an admission relating to police corruption. He told of having used material obtained by a colleague's bribery of a police officer as the basis of a series of articles published over several years on Jennifer Elliott, the daughter of the actor Denholm Elliott. He stated, "The going rate for that kind of thing might have been two to five hundred pounds and that would have been authorised, and he [i.e., the police officer] would have been paid... and he would have been on the lookout for another story..." The articles described Elliott's destitute situation and stated that she had worked as a prostitute. Jennifer Elliott took her own life in 2003. In McMullan's opinion, the News of the World – specifically, his own articles – contributed significantly to her suicide.[54] In 2011, the paper knowingly used private investigators to gain stories from corrupt police officers.[55]

Libel actions

Max Mosley won damages for the newspaper's invasion of privacy and incorrect assertion about the Nazi theme in Mosley v News Group Newspapers Limited


British Press Awards:[64]

See also


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  4. Robinson, James (10 July 2011). "News of the World to close as Rupert Murdoch acts to limit fallout". The Guardian. UK. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  5. Addley, Esther (7 July 2011). "The News of the World's sensational history", The Guardian (UK), Retrieved 24 June 2014.
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  11. BBC News.
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  13. Addley, Esther (7 July 2011). "The News of the World's sensational history". The Guardian. UK. Priced at threepence, it was the cheapest paper on news stands.
  14. J. W. Robertson Scott, The Story of the Pall Mall Gazette (1950), 417.
  15. Bill Grundy "The Press: Mr Maxwell and the Ailing Giant", The Spectator, 24 October 1968, p. 6.
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  40. "Vigilante attack on innocent man". BBC News. 25 July 2000. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
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  44. News Corp. Phone-Hacking Scandal Gets New Legs,, 6 April 2011.
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  54. "iPlayer" (Console ed.). UK: BBC.
  55. Murder trial collapse exposes News of the World links to police corruption, The Guardian, 11 March 2011.
  56. My Brother David, a film presented by David's brother Simon and produced by Roger Tonge for BBC TV.
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  68., 6 April 2011, Guardian, Times and NoW win big at Press Awards.
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