News of the World's final issue was unleashed Sunday, complete with a statement of farewell glorifying its longstanding influence. The cover contains a montage of recent front pages sporting major headlines, such as "Fergie 'Sells' Andy for 500k" and "Harry's Racist Video Shame," and declares in the top right corner, "The world's greatest newspaper: 1843 - 2011."
The goodbye piece attempts to remind readers of how the paper has been intertwined with historic moments in its 168 year history: "In our first Christmas Eve edition, for example, on December 24, 1843, we reviewed and told the story of a new novel by a writer published just a week earlier: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Fortunately we gave it a good review and, like us, it became part of a national heritage." And further:
We also recorded the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the Titanic, two world wars, the 1966 World Cup victory, the first man on the moon, the death of Diana... the list goes on.
There is an apology too, toward the end, (but as CNN pointed out, "the apology took up only a few paragraphs in its 829-word farewell.)
Quite simply, we lost our way. Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry. There is no justification for this appalling wrong-doing. No justification for the pain caused to victims, nor for the deep stain it has left on a great history. Yet when this outrage has been atoned, we hope history will eventually judge us on all our years.
The paper also announced that profits (not "revenues" as has been noted) from the final edition would be divided among charities, and the only advertisements in the issue, according to Reuters, were also for charity. Noble gestures, certainly. But it doesn't seem to be enough. While the announcement that the paper was shutting down spawned sympathy for the 200 or so staff members who would lose their jobs, there seemed to be little sympathy for the "proud and wistful" final edition. The giant caption on the cover of the paper declares "Thank You and Goodbye" -- "It did not apologize on its cover, as some expected," noted CNN. And according to London journalist Jayne Secker's Twitter feed, "Lawyer for Milly Dowlers family says NOTW front page should have said 'We're Sorry'."
Roy Greenslade, professor of journalism at City University and a former editor of the Daily Mirror, took a close look at the final edition at Guardian:
The final issue of the News of the World unashamedly appeals to the emotions of its audience while casting itself as a victim of circumstances beyond its own control. In the course of 48 pages celebrating its supposedly finest moments, it seeks to play the hero while attempting to disguise its villainy. Indeed, some of the villainy is given an heroic gloss. Without wishing to dance on a dead newspaper's grave, especially while the body is still warm, it cannot be allowed to get away with perpetuating yet more myths amid the cheap sentimentality of its farewell.
Harry Mount at the Telegraph describes the final issue as "a gripping nostalgia-fest."
For all the horrors of its phone-hacking campaign, the News of the World has always remained highly readable stuff – as it is in its last ever issue today, even if its front-page headline is not one of the greats: “Thank You and Goodbye” is a little unimaginative. It goes hell for leather on the sentimental nostalgic front, twice printing its best ever review, from one George Orwell: “It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose and open the News of the World.”
And Max Read at Gawker gives a little further context for the Orwell quote:
"Preferably before the war" is, of course, how the News feels about everything. And—so fittingly!—the paper manages to omit the following lines that follow: "Roast beef and Yorkshire, or roast pork and apple sauce...In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about? Naturally, about a murder.
But for all the criticism, the final edition is flying off the shelves. In its live coverage of the paper's scandal, the Telegraph covered a series of tweets from Londoners frustrated in their efforts to snag a final copy. Telegraph's Digital Editor Edward Roussel tweeted, "News of the Screws goes out with a bang: sold out at newsagents across London by mid-morning. #NotW."
Of course, one person who did get to grab a final copy was Rupert Murdoch, photographed with the final edition as he landed in London to deal with the fallout, fearing it could jeopardize his bid to buy British broadcaster BSkyB. Meanwhile other news outlets are reporting that both his son James Murdoch and News Corp. could face charges in the U.S. under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and in the U.K. under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. And BBC is just now reporting that News International found emails indicating criminal police payoffs in 2007 that were not reported until the end of June of this year. So the paper may have printed its own final issue, but the news it generates lives on with a vengeance.