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.

News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines