LONDON — Media titan Rupert Murdoch, in a bid to protect his News Corp. empire, sought to stanch damage from a deepening phone hacking scandal Thursday by sacrificing the mass-circulation British weekly the News of the World.
The saga turned yet more disturbing Thursday with suggestions that journalists for the paper had broken into the voice mail not only of a 13-year-old murder victim but also of relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and that the paper had paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to police officers for information.
The Times of London, also a News Corp. newspaper, said five News of the World journalists and the newspaper executives suspected of involvement in the scandal were expected to be arrested within days.
The announcement came from Murdoch's son and likely heir apparent, James, in a broad and apologetic statement delivered so suddenly that the News of the World was still advertising a subscription deal on its website afterward.
"Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad, and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued," he said, admitting that the paper and News Corp.'s British newspaper group as a whole, known as News International, had "failed to get to the bottom of repeated wrongdoing that occurred without conscience or legitimate purpose," despite a police investigation in 2006 that sent two men to jail.
As a result, he said, the paper and the company "wrongly maintained that these issues were confined to one reporter. We have now voluntarily given evidence to the police that I believe will prove that this was untrue, and those who acted wrongly will have to face the consequences."
In an on-camera interview with the BBC, James Murdoch said the paper is being shut down because "we fundamentally breached a trust with our readers." He defended News International's embattled chief, Rebekah Brooks, saying he is convinced that her leadership is "the right thing" for the company and "absolutely crucial right now."
The final edition of the newspaper, to be published Sunday, he said, will include no advertising, except those for causes and charities "that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers." Furthermore, the circulation revenue for the final edition will "go to good causes," he said.