A consortium of business and media figures including former Sunday Express editor Susan Douglas is drawing up a rescue bid for the News of the World, according to reports.
The final edition of the News of the World was published yesterday – selling more than four million copies – after News International chairman James Murdoch’s s shock decision to shut the tabloid last Thursday.
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According to The Independent, Douglas is at the helm of a group looking to revive the News of the World ‘as a responsible investigative newspaper”.
“What we are talking about is saving the freedom of the press for ordinary people, who are not going to read the Financial Times, or even The Independent or The Guardian,’she told the newspaper. ‘I think it’s really important and worth doing.”
“We have really got a window,” she continued. “We are looking at what might be possible and talking to ex-editors and VCs [venture capitalists] and exploring this with people who are interested in upholding freedom of the press and buying into a title that still makes money.”
The plan would involve taking the NoW’s existing staff under editor Colin Myler out of the News International stable and into new ownership.
“I think News of the World readers want the News of the World, and the team that produces it is still extant and haven’t done anything inappropriate or unlawful as far as we know,” she said.
“The News of the World’s trouble is really about misdemeanours of management. People talk about prurience and invading people’s privacy but when it’s in the public interest, it’s completely justified. I think there will be mounting public opinion behind anyone who tried to save the News of the World on that basis.”
The consortium is aware that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation would be likely to challenge any attempt to buy the paper, but believes ‘public opinion would support a rescue attempt”.
The NUJ’s head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick told Press Gazette that while he not heard about the consortium’s efforts, Murdoch ‘shouldn’t be allowed to just close it – he should be exploring alternative ownership”.
Fitzpatrick said such a venture would need access to large amounts of capital, but claimed: ‘If he [Murdoch] is prepared to close it down then he should be prepared to hand it over to them.’
‘I don’t think he [Murdoch] would like to see it reborn as some kind of competitor,” he added.
‘It was a profitable newspaper, even with the advertisers pulling out, and if its credibility could be restored much of that income would come back, and the staff would be there to produce a paper that people wanted.”