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LONDON — Faced between protecting the executive who has been his favorite protege for nearly 20 years and the newspaper that has most defined his legacy as a newspaper proprietor for half a century, it seems that — for now — Rupert Murdoch has chosen the former.
Even as shocked staff heard the news Thursday afternoon that the 168-year-old News of the World would be closed down, there was mounting anger at what is now being seen as the safeguarded position of the 42-year-old News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.
Brooks, the close confidante of the Murdoch family, was editor of The News of the World when some of the most serious hacking allegations — including the hacking of Milly Dowler‘s phone – occurred, and she jointly delivered the news to a shocked staff alongside James Murdoch.
The two were accompanied by two security guards as James Murdoch read the statement, during which Brooks was reported to be in tears.
However, following what an insider called ” a hostile change of mood in the room,” Brooks and Murdoch left the room, and News of the World editor Colin Myler continued to talk to the staff.
The closure will mean that 200 staff are out of a job after the weekend, though many may be rehired to staff a new Sunday edition of Murdoch’s popular daily tabloid The Sun, which may replace NOW.
But it is far from clear that choosing to save Brooks at the cost of shutting down NOW be enough to save the reputation of News Corp. as she is now being widely held responsible for some of the excesses.
“I don’t think that News International can hope to move on while RB remains in post,” the Labour leader Ed Milliband told Sky News.
“There are a lot of people who did nothing wrong who will be losing their jobs, but I don’t think they can move this on until they address the matter of the people who were there in post,” he added.
Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former press secretary, echoed his views.
“She is the person where the buck should have stopped, and this won’t stop until she goes. They can’t protect her forever. People are going to lose their jobs because of what happened on her watch.”
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