In 1979, I was sent on one of those junior/mid management courses that stressed team awareness and interplay through much physical stress but where the individual was also given the opportunity to lead the group and each had to prepare two or three presentations. In turn, a few guest speakers had been invited to give talks on their specialist field and answer any questions.
The first of these guest speakers that I recall, was the Governor of HM Prison, Hull, which at the time had newly reopened after extensive repairs needed because of a much publicised riot three years earlier in 1976. A jovial gentleman, he informed us how on his first appointment as a prison governor he had told the wardens that he would see those in solitary as well. He made the mistake of walking forward of the warden who unlocked one such cell, only to meet the fist of "Mad" Frankie Fraser and was knocked out cold.
Shortly after, it was the turn of a newspaper editor to broaden our horizons; not the editor of course but a sub or deputy one from a left-of -centre paper as most of my group were presumed to lean to the right. I'm sure that at the time, there was a publication under threat of folding and one of my group said to him this could only be of good cheer for his paper.
The answer surprised us. He regretted the closure of a newspaper, even if he and his journal took a different position on matters. It was vital in a democracy and for healthy debate, he went on, that there should be as many papers representing as broad an informed view as possible.
Many newspapers, he went on, were under (financial) stress and the sharp drop in the number of publications, both local and national, combined with generally fewer copies sold by those remaining, was, in his opinion, a matter only of regret. Even if this paper were not amalgamated with another - a possible solution - and did cease publication, his newspaper would benefit little. More than likely, a majority of the "rival's" readers would simply stop buying any paper and get their news from the television instead.
With only three TV channels at the time, my group appreciated that this could limit the scope and angle of coverage of any given topic and that by its nature, television news suffered (and still does) because everything has to be condensed into "sound bites".
If the newspaper market was declining in 1979, the industry was in even poorer shape by 2010. James Robinson in the Guardian on 17 June 2010, quoted an OECD study which showed that circulation figures fell 25 per cent in the UK between 2007-09, worse only in the USA over the same period where circulation fell by 30 per cent.
European figures though better than Britain's, showed relatively steep declines too over this comparatively short period and with cover prices roughly meeting only half of all production and distribution costs of a publication in the UK, much less in the USA, the newspaper market generates 50 per cent of its revenue from advertising. And the figures continue to worsen.
Never having forgotten the deputy editor's remarks, I was sorry to see the News of the World cease publication, despite never having bought but its last issue and the paper unlikely to be my cup of tea, so my sorrow is limited to the fact that roughly three million or more former News of the World (NoW) readers will simply no longer purchase any alternative.
NoW's loss is unlikely to be to the gain of the "qualities". A PressGazette/ID Factor poll published on 19 July 2011, found that: "Some 49 per cent of those who described themselves as being NoW readers said they will buy another newspaper." A breakdown of those intending to buy another paper showed that 33 per cent will buy the Mail on Sunday; 33 per cent the Sunday Mirror; and 19 per cent The People.
There are many, however, who will not share my concern over the loss of newspaper readership figures and deem the NoW's demise - even without the hacking scandal - as being no great impairment to true journalism. In 2005 the NoW won both Newspaper and Scoop of the Year awards and a somewhat disgusted Roy Greenslade of the Guardian was quoted as saying:
"Let us be under no illusion about that unappetising phenomenon which forms so much of the sensational content of the NoW. It relies on the basest of human conduct, because people are coaxed into betrayal in return for 30 pieces of silver and, in turn, appeals to the prurience of others." For good measure, he described the newspaper as "vulgar and venal".
Telling it with no holds barred, just in case there was any lingering doubt as to why the paper had been founded in 1843 and how and from whom it sourced its material - those seeking fame or greater fame, those wanting revenge, the willing, the cajoled, the politician, the police and the prostitutes, to mention but a few.
Really, only the technology changed. Everyone and anyone dealing with NoW knew they were not dealing with Watchtower - least of all the people the newspaper employed. Describing one-time NoW Editor, Andy Coulson, Guardian columnist and PR agent, Mark Borkowski said: "...(Andy) is very straight, very honest. But at the bottom of it you'll find a chequebook..."
Mr Owen Gibson of the Guardian said of Andy Coulson in 2005: " Unusually in the cut-throat world of tabloid journalism, he is universally regarded as 'straightforward and genuine'" Tabloid journalism may well be an area where angels fear to tread but then living with an angel is no easy matter either.
Mr Chris Steiner on 14 July 2011, criticised my article Phone hacking: Britain's ever downward circulation figures and the suicide of a salacious tabloid. His first point was that he failed to see the validity of my statement: "Most of the bile, for the moment at least, centres around the News of the World and quite possibly Messrs Rupert and James Murdoch have done the right thing by excising a cancerous limb" and implied I was being naive. The portion in italics, Mr Steiner omitted in his comment.
Mr Steiner went on to ask whether I was "implying that the Murdochs were not aware that certain articles published in the NotW had been sourced illegally and/or immorally? Why haven't they excised Brooks?
The part in italics which I have reinserted was because at the time, I half expected to hear that other titles, not necessarily belonging to News International, would come under investigation very shortly, and this looks increasingly the case.
As to the Murdochs "excising a cancerous limb", this may sound insensitive given some of the alleged victims - nearly all still being qualified as "alleged" from thousands of pages of notes from a private investigator - but I think this outcome was inevitable and only its suddenness took many by surprise.
Once the NoW lost its main advertisers - Ford, Vauxhall, Sainsbury, Boots and such like - the paper would not just lose money rapidly and have a big section of staff, maybe 80 Field and Telephone Sales, effectively redundant, but lose also its main business function for News Corporation - the subsidising of News International's "quality" papers.
It must also be borne in mind that although NoW appeared large on the British stage as the biggest selling Sunday paper, it was tiny in the affairs of the parent company and by no means predominant in the remit of James Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia, a post he took over on 07 December 2007.
Concerning the Murdochs direct knowledge of things done "illegally and/or immorally", allowing for the nature of the paper long before it came under their control and a party being presumed innocent until proved otherwise, it might beg the question: why should a corporate head micro-manage to this extent?
Typically, a large newspaper will have an Editor, at least one Deputy Editor, 10 or so Sub-Editors, maybe 90 Reporters/Correspondents. Who hires the Private Investigator? Probably one of the Editors. On one major story, Editor Andy Coulson presided over a Deputy, Managing Editor, Senior Associate Editor, Showbiz Editor, Chief Reporter, Investigations Editor, other section Editors "all encouraged to compete internally for scoops". Then there's the legal team. Why should Rupert or James Murdoch get involved?
Why was Rebekah Brooks not excised? One doesn't get to the top of a News Corporation publication at the age of 32 unless you are very good at your job and have bags of talent, no doubt a streak of ruthlessness doesn't go amiss either. Mr Rupert Murdoch, worth a net $7.6 billion no doubt had each of these in abundance too. Mrs Brooks is also very loyal to her boss - as is Andy Coulson - and is trusted implicitly in return. I've heard her resignation has only been accepted because a Saudi shareholder insisted it should be on being offered a second time.
When all said and done, News Corporation is an American company listed on the NASDAQ (New York). It's total revenue is about $33 billion and its assets currently amount to $60 billion and net profit of about $2.5 billion.
One can normally get a feel for the priorities of a multinational company by reading their Annual Statement. Here is how News Corporation sees itself:
"...a diversified global media company with operations in six industry segments: cable network programming; filmed entertainment; television; direct broadcast satellite television; publishing; and other activities."
And here is how News Corporation regards its markets:
"...the United States, Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and Latin America."
In that tail-end Publishing segment, News Corporation lists News International ( a relatively poor) third after News America Marketing and the New York Post and just ahead of News Limited, its Australian publications, where it all began. If there is any sentiment within the family, I guess this fourth would rank higher than the UK third.
The hacking scandal won't go away, closing NoW or not - nobody in the Company thought that for a moment. Use any adjective you like to describe the (still "alleged" for legal reasons I believe) removal of text messages from Milly Dowler's mobile. That was the line too far. Personally, I think the inquiry into Police corruption could prove to be just as if not more damaging - the Press is not quite such a strong pillar of society.
As for News Corporation, am I alone in thinking that after the swift closure of the News of the World that they were about to ditch News International altogether? Perish the thought.