The news broke yesterday afternoon that Rupert Murdoch is set to close the 168-year-old newspaper following revelations that reporters had hacked into voicemails on a phone belonging to murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and targeted the phones of families of victims of the 7/7 attacks and the families of British soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Borkowski.do founder Mark Borkowski said that the newspaper’s closure is a PR stunt, but said that it would not stop people gunning for News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.
‘News International has put its survival on the closure of the News of the World,’ said Borkowski. ‘But the point is that people want the executives, they don’t want the brand. The brand could have continued if the chief executive was hung out to dry. The people who have been creating this aren’t going to stop until they’ve got Rebekah Brooks.’
Borkowski added that the newspaper’s closure will start one of the ‘biggest changes in the media ever’.
‘This is bigger that the Murdoch moving his staff out of Fleet Street. If this can happen, who knows what else can happen? I think there’s a tsunami coming – you’re going to see a flood of journalists into PR for one thing.
‘It puts a huge amount of power into the hands of PR people. It’s a massive opportunity for PR to get it wrong or get it right. It’s a seismic shift of power to the PR world.’
Media House executive chairman Jack Irvine, also former News International Scotland’s MD, said that the move was ‘a clever PR stunt and an even more brilliant business stunt’.
He added: ‘It’s very audacious, but I don’t think it will work, they will keep focusing on Rebekah.’
Another former News of The World journalist, James Fletcher, now MD of Onside Public Relations called the decision to close the News of the World 'an absolute disgrace'.
The former sports journalist said: 'What is happening is an absolute disgrace, a blatant, cynical attempt to solve two problems in one, making the Sun a 24/7 rolling news platform and an attempt to end the phone hacking scandal.'
He added: 'This scandal will not end on Sunday when the NOTW is closed. It will rumble on for months and there are many of my former colleagues - now execs on other papers - who will almost certainly be dragged into this now and there are now doubt more shocking scandals to emerge.'
PR consultant Max Clifford, who is currently working with the Met Police over suspicions that he has had his own phone hacked, said to PRWeek: ‘News International had no choice because the cancer had taken one arm of its organisation and was about to take the whole body – no amount of skilful surgery could have saved it. It was right to cut off the arm to try to save the rest.
‘The public didn’t care too much that celebrities were having their phones hacked. But, when everyday members of the public were targeted as well as victims of crimes and families that had lost loved ones, the British public was disgusted and rightly outraged.’
‘They had to make the decision, and quickly, to try to not damage the BSkyB bid.’
Clifford added that he did not think Rebekah Brooks had any knowledge of the hacks into the phones of Milly Dowler and the families of victims of crime. ‘I really don’t think anything will be linked to her because I don’t think she was involved,’ he said.