Ian Burrell: A morale-boosting visit (thanks to James's absence)


Once again, Rupert Murdoch took everybody by surprise. When he zipped into News International in a motor cavalcade yesterday, some journalists on The Sun were convinced their famous paper had no future.

But after the News Corp chairman and chief executive had undertaken a tour of the newsroom in the company of his eldest son, Lachlan, and the famous former royal photographer Arthur Edwards, the mood had lightened. "The Sun is all about emotion," one of the paper's former senior executives said. "It's different from the News of the World, which was more cynical. The Sun is positive. It's also like a military operation and without this support from the commander-in-chief it would die."

The presence of Lachlan, rather than the younger son, James Murdoch, the former chief executive of News International who is still theoretically in charge of the company, was noted. Andrew Neil, a former News International editor, said: "James Murdoch has been written out of script as Rupert defends Sun and promises Sunday edition. He loves his tabloids and his son doesn't." Rupert Murdoch has held a special affection for The Sun since he bought the ailing left-leaning paper in 1969 and turned it into the most brash and popular title on the newsstand.

But the paper's future as a seven-day operation brings with it a number of benefits. In a digital era it is helpful to have only a single brand. It is also likely to be a much cheaper editorial operation than that run by its rival, the Daily Mail. Mr Murdoch will stay in London for "several weeks", stabilising News International. That may mean The Sun on Sunday is launched imminently.

Despite the arrests of 10 serving and former Sun journalists, tabloid newspapers have recently drawn confidence from a ruling on celebrity reporting earlier this month in the European Court of Human Rights, where Princess Caroline of Monaco lost a case based on her right to privacy.

The new editor of The Sun on Sunday is most likely to be Victoria Newton. She is the former deputy editor of the NOTW and was once No 2 to the current Sun editor Dominic Mohan on the paper's entertainment column, Bizarre. But neither of those things will necessarily count in her favour.

With Rupert Murdoch, nothing can be taken for granted.

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