Murdoch’s News of the World implodes under scandal

Rupert Murdoch has been at the center of some serious media scandals, but nothing on par with this.

The tabloid at the center of the British phone hacking is to be closed after a final, ad-free Sunday edition this weekend, according to a top official at News Corp., James Murdoch, in a sudden statement that underscored the devastating effect of allegations that targets included not only a 13-year-old murder victim but also relatives of fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. […]

The new reports of stunning intrusions came a day after Britain’s Parliament collectively turned on Rupert Murdoch, the head of the News Corporation, which owns The News of the World, and the tabloid culture he represents, using a debate about the widening phone hacking scandal to denounce reporting tactics by newspapers once seen as too politically influential to challenge.

The phone-hacking scandals aren’t new, but the targets have traditionally been celebrities. Attitudes changed quickly when the public learned the paper intercepted messages from a murdered girl’s phone and the family members of terrorist victims.

The scandal intensified this week following reports that Rebekah Brooks, the British head of News Corp., had been confronted with evidence that The News of the World “was using unlawful means to interrupt a murder investigation whose two main suspects had ties to the paper.”

The scope of the scandal may not end with the demise of this one newspaper. Murdoch’s News Corp. owns several leading British newspapers, and Murdoch is in talks to take over the television company British Sky Broadcasting. Indeed, News Corp. had become so powerful in the country, the New York Times noted that “politicians and police officers walked in fear of it, fearing its disclosures and courting its support.”

Not only is that no longer the case, but the scandals appear to have broken a dam, leading to a flood of new allegations, including News Corp. possibly bribing police and lying to Parliament.

A conservative lawmaker, whose party has benefited from Murdoch’s contributions, said this week, “Rupert Murdoch is clearly a very, very talented businessman — he’s possibly even a genius — but his organization has grown too powerful and has abused that power. It has systematically corrupted the police and in my view has gelded this Parliament, to our shame.”

Eric Boehlert explained this morning, before the announcement about the newspaper’s demise, that the larger fiasco “has the possible makings of a career-defining debacle for the partisan media mogul.”