News of the World shutting down after phone hacking scandal

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LONDON (AP) — The Murdoch media empire unexpectedly jettisoned the News of the World on Thursday, the best-selling tabloid at the center of an ugly phone hacking scandal.

A guard looks on outside the headquarters of News of the World. (Photo: Associated Press)

The tabloid, long known for its dubious undercover reporting techniques, had gravely offended the British public by hacking into the cell phone voicemail of a missing teenage girl, possibly even interfering with the police investigation into her murder.

What was an acceptable, if illegal, tactic used to gather scoops on drug-using celebrities, philandering politicians or cheating film stars suddenly became completely unacceptable when missing children, the relatives of soldiers slain in Afghanistan or the families of victims of London's 2005 terror attacks were targeted.

Rupert Murdoch's son, James Murdoch, who heads European operations for the paper's parent company, said the 168-year-old weekly newspaper would publish its last edition on Sunday, without ads. The closure was spurred in part by the decision by many large advertisers to withdraw their ads in protest of the paper's gross intrusions of privacy.

News International says shuttering the scandal-wracked News of the World will cost about 200 tabloid staffers their jobs. Journalists at the paper had no advance word of the decision.

However, some analysts said decision may make strategic business sense for Rupert Murdoch if it allows him to salvage a controversial bid to fully take over the broadcaster British Sky Broadcast in a deal estimated at 12 billion pounds ($19 billion). Murdoch might even be able to fill the gap left by the News of the World with one of his other media properties.

"News Corp. has taken a bold decision to stop printing the News of the World and close the title. Mr. Murdoch was clearly not willing to jeopardize his bid for BSkyB," said markets analyst Louise Cooper of BGC Partners in London. "Murdoch has shown what a brilliant operator he really is."

She said the financial impact of the paper's closure will be small to parent company, far less than the value wiped off of News International's stock price by the hacking scandal.

News International spokeswoman Daisy Dunlop denied rumors that The Sun, the News of The World's sister paper that publishes Monday through Saturday, would become a seven-day operation to pick up the slack and restore Murdoch's financial position in the vital Sunday market.

"It's not true at the moment," she said.

She said employees laid off in the closure will be able to apply for other jobs within the sprawling media company.

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