x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

What next for News of the World journalists?

Former staff member of the recently closed-down publication promises a blog that tells the whole inside story.

The News of the World was published for the last time yesterday.
The News of the World was published for the last time yesterday.

Recent days have prompted a sentiment one might once not have thought possible: sympathy for staff at the News of the World.

Journalists working on yesterday's final edition of the paper did so while facing unemployment and being closely watched by security, without access to their e-mails or web, with rumours that the office was soon to be declared a crime scene. The phones, according to one staff member talking to The Guardian, had been ringing incessantly with "people shouting the nastiest, most vile abuse". Given the speed at which events unfolded, even the most hardened of hacks must have felt shell-shocked.

As the paper was put to bed for the last time, the mood inside the newsroom was described as sombre but purposeful. There was a strong sense that the staffers had nothing to be ashamed of, a sentiment voiced and reiterated by the editor Colin Myler on numerous occasions over the past few days. In an e-mail sent to staff, he said: "It's not where we want to be and it's not where we deserve to be...But I know we will produce a paper to be proud of." The paper's former deputy political editor, Jamie Lyons, was resolute in his praise, posting the following message on Twitter: "All #NOTW staff at their desks despite losing our jobs 2 days ago. Says all you need to know about their professionalism, pride & integrity".

Despite the turmoil of job losses, there was much talk of loyalty within the group and a genuine desire to produce a fitting final edition. Many took to Twitter to voice their shock and anger. Paul Carter, a freelance journalist, tweeted: "My mate with 4 kids, not a hacker, honest journo, now lost his job, shame on the bosses at #NOTW." The paper's TV editor Tom Latchem, meanwhile, offered both a sense of perspective and a resolute, rallying cry: "Thanks for all your kind words all - we will all survive, nobody died. Viva NOTW!!"

Never the most secure of professions, over the past week the reputation of journalism and journalists (not just those associated with the News of the World) has been tarred, perhaps irrevocably, by a particularly unappetising brush. This is, after all, a career which, in the UK at least, has never been regarded as particularly honourable or venerated. Amid the increased call for an investigation into the culture and regulation of the press, this is surely being felt more pertinently than ever before.

So, what happens next? In a much-discussed meeting on Friday, the former editor Rebekah Brooks is thought to have assured staff that the company would attempt to find positions for them within News International. For many, the prospect must be unappealing. Faith in her leadership has rapidly dissipated and the belief that staff have been disposed of, with a view to protecting Brooks's position, is stronger than ever.

During her speech, Brooks also strongly suggested that further revelations were to come. For anyone working for a newspaper falling under the News International umbrella (which includes The Sun, The Sunday Times and The Times) this was an ominous prediction indeed, felt all the more keenly because of the current economic situation and the fear of job losses associated with it. The move by the car company Renault to stop advertising with all News International newspapers is another blow and leads to only more worry - will others follow?

For News of the World employees who woke up to a second day of unemployment, their next move is a tough one to call. Meanwhile, the backlash against Murdoch's decision has caught fire online. An anonymous Twitter account, which first appeared on Friday under the name @ExNOTWJourno, quickly captured public attention.

Following a series of tweets @ExNOTWJourno claimed she and some her colleagues were collaborating with the intention of launching a blog, promising the "Inside story of NOTW. Stories we weren't able to tell". The account could easily be a hoax, as has been suggested, but the sheer number of followers - more than 20,000 now - suggests otherwise.

The story will continue to develop, as most of them do, and people who feel that their reputations have been unfairly sullied and jobs callously snatched away will come forward and speak out. What the @ExNOTWJourno Twitter account - and those of the other, vocal former staffers - as well as the possible tell-all blog, crucially prove, though, is that in a world where social media is more than ever at the fore, they won't have to rely on a print newspaper to do so.