Could News Corp. have a more sinister reason for shuttering News of the World? James Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., spoke to Sky News, a News Corp. company, Thursday evening about the executive team's decision to close the publication:
Actions taken a number of years ago by certain individuals in what had been a good newsroom have breached the trust that News of the World has with its readers. And we felt that under the circumstances and given the work--the thorough work--and the process that we've undertaken over the last year and a half to come to this point. And that realization was something that was inescapable. And we took the decision to close down the paper, to cease publication after this Sunday, really because of that.
The interview continues briefly with some discussion over plans for a possible Sunday edition of The Sun. Murdoch says that the focus is solely on putting out final edition of News of the World but does not say why News Corp. did not take action against the newspaper any sooner. (Perhaps because the reporter interviewing him did not ask.)
As News Corp. provides few clues, other journalists are digging deep for a better explanation of why News Corp. would close the 168-year-old newspaper. Alison Frankel, a law reporter at Reuters, suggests that it may offer News Corp. the opportunity to destroy records relevant to the phone hacking scandal in advance of a more aggressive investigation by Scotland Yard:
According to British media law star Mark Stephens of Finers Stephens Innocent (whom The Times of London has dubbed “Mr Media”), Rupert Murdoch’s soon-to-be shuttered tabloid may not be obliged to retain documents that could be relevant to civil and criminal claims against the newspaper--even in cases that are already underway. That could mean that dozens of sports, media, and political celebrities who claim News of the World hacked into their telephone accounts won’t be able to find out exactly what the tabloid knew and how it got the information.
News of the World is to be liquidated, Stephens told Reuters, it “is a stroke of genius--perhaps evil genius.”
Under British law, Stephens explained, all of the assets of the shuttered newspaper, including its records, will be transferred to a professional liquidator (such as a global accounting firm). The liquidator’s obligation is to maximize the estate’s assets and minimize its liabilities.
"Evil genius" is an assertive phrase to describe the speculation. However, it would not be the first time it's been used to describe Rupert Murdoch, who's remained mum on the issue.