Wapping in turmoil as hacking saga hits Murdoch where it hurts

Oliver Wright and Ian Burrell test the mood in News International's London fortress

Tuesday is normally a quiet day for reporters and editors of the News of the World. Because the paper comes out on a Sunday, the staff's weekend extends until Monday, and Tuesday is spent at a leisurely pace – phoning contacts, taking lunch and coming up with ideas for the next week's paper.



Not yesterday. From the moment they arrived at Rupert Murdoch's Wapping print headquarters, home of his News International titles, executives on the News of the World's newsdesk were inundated by furious calls from readers and members of the public, after the direct phone numbers for the paper were posted on the internet.

"It was one call after the other, and most of them were people swearing at us," said one member of staff. "It was a grim day. It's quite a young staff on the paper and many people who are here now have joined since this all happened. Everyone is demoralised. It's hard to see how the paper recovers from this."

But the ramifications of Monday night's revelations that the News of the World had hacked the voicemail of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler went beyond the open plan office of the News of the World. On Monday evening, a few floors below in the offices of The Times, executives agonised into the night over what prominence to give the story, and over the extent to which they should report its impact on the parent company that owns the titles. In the end it was decided to run the story in a column on its front page – but significantly no mention was made of News International's current chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of the News of the World at the time the hacking took place. Her role in the affair was relegated to deep within the inside story – the only national newspaper, other than The Sun, not to feature her prominently. By the following morning, the decision of the paper not to lead its website with the story had led to a storm of protest from subscribers, with the ripples being felt throughout The Times, and members of its staff spreading news of a boycott of sister paper the News of the World.

One of The Times's most prominent columnists publicised how readers could undermine her paper's stable-mate. Caitlin Moran, who has 100,000 followers on the social messaging website Twitter, forwarded links on how to boycott the News of the World, pressure companies not to advertise in it, call for a public inquiry, and pressure the Press Complaints Commission to reopen its inquiry into hacking.

One online subscriber to The Times wrote of its story on the Dowler hacking: "What an inadequate article. This is featuring at the top of all news bulletins this morning and is the main story in other serious newspapers. There are huge political and commercial implications which this article fails to report. I have been reading The Times for years and am a subscriber. Time to reconsider I think – depending on the response of News International in the coming days. I want to read a paper that reports without fear or favour."

Executives responded by placing the story more prominently and replying: "I think the fact that we have changed the homepage to lead on the updated version of this story signals our intent to do just that – report without fear or favour. We have to – our credibility rests on it."

The concerns about journalistic credibility compelled the paper's editor, James Harding, to speak out in the afternoon and try to distance The Times from its now-toxic stablemate.

"If it is true, it seems to me what has happened is disgusting and indefensible and for all of us who are journalists, profoundly depressing," said Harding. "And I think the issue for The Times is to report it accurately and clearly. I am more concerned simply with the fact that if what has alleged to have happened has happened, then it will shame not just the people involved, not just that particular newspaper, but newspapers in general."

Credibility also became a problem at The Sun, where the paper ran a 200-word article on the affair in a column on page 2. The paper disabled the comment section on its website to ensure that it was not bombarded with angry comments from readers.

The affair could eventually have profound effects on the 168-year-old News of the World. Last week News International announced that it was moving towards integrating its Sunday and daily operations on The Sun and the News of the World, with a joint managing editor brought in to oversee the operations.

It would have been inconceivable then, but yesterday one media commentator speculated that as a result of the continuing and deepening problems the News of the World brand could disappear entirely, to be replaced by a Sunday Sun. "No one in News International would want it to happen, but after all this I don't think you can rule it out," they said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links