When the News of the World was launched in 1843, its proprietor, John Browne Bell, promised: "Our motto is the truth, our practice is the fearless advocacy of the truth." Formula One boss Max Mosley is not alone in questioning whether that pledge is still central to the paper's mission.
But the latest newspaper circulation figures suggest the NoW's owner, Rupert Murdoch, need not worry. His Sunday red-top has returned to the summit of the newspaper market. Its sales rose by 0.81 per cent in June – a month-on-month increase that was beaten by only the Daily Star Sunday (+3.4 per cent) and The Independent on Sunday, which recorded a 4.3 per cent month-on-month sales increase.
Mr Murdoch has additional cause for satisfaction. His daily flagship, The Sun, achieved its fifth successive year-on-year circulation increase: a rise of 24,945 copies since June 2007 to a total sale of 3,089,321.
Elsewhere in the daily newspaper market, The Daily Telegraph achieved a modest monthly increase and the Financial Times maintained its impressive form with a tiny annual rise (993 copies).
The biggest winner on the all-important annual comparison was the London Evening Standard – up 6.93 per cent to a daily sale of 293,759. But that performance invited instant cynicism from its rival, the News International-owned free- sheet thelondonpaper. Ian Clark, managing director of tlp, accused the Standard's owners of inflating circulation with a "staggering rate" of bulk sales and quipped: "We welcome them to the land of the free."
It is hard to see why Mr Clark is worried. His title distributed an average of 500,800 copies each weekday. Meanwhile, London's free financial title, CityAM, reached a new peak circulation of 101,885. Its staff will not rejoice much: CityAM has just sacked its sub-editors and may struggle to maintain quality.
Tim Luckhurst is professor of journalism at the University of Kent