“…the company is doing everything it can to make sure that we find re-employment, wherever we can, for journalists and staff at the News of the World who had nothing to do with any of these issues and who are completely blameless in any of these things.”
James Murdoch, Select Committee Hearing into phone hacking, 19 July 2011
Rupert Murdoch has a “moral duty” to hire ex-News of the World reporters at the new Sun on Sunday, the NoW’s former chief reporter said today.
The tabloid may have closed steeped in scandal, but Neville Thurlbeck said he wanted to “remind Mr Murdoch that his former CEO Rebekah Brooks promised to find as many News of the World staff as possible new jobs”.
Yet in the seven months since the tabloid’s closure many ex-NoW hacks have said the “toxic brand” has tainted their job prospects.
But are they too toxic to join their sister publication’s new launch? FactCheck wonders if the Sun on Sunday is answering the SOS of the ex-NoW hacks.
James Murdoch told the Select Committee hearing that News International would do “everything it can” to make sure ex-NoW staff were re-employed. “Many have done tremendous work journalistically, professionally and commercially for the business,” he said.
And the company released a separate statement announcing it would offer employment opportunities to the “vast majority” of staff who lost their jobs as a result of the closure of the NoW.
Many were paid off handsomely under the “early leaver scheme”, but there is no evidence to suggest a “vast” number went on to secure jobs at other News International titles (The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun).
News International’s press office has yet to get back to FactCheck with the number of NoW staff it has fed into other arms of NI, or how many it might take on at the Sun on Sunday. NI also said it had no comment on how the new staffing structure might work at The Sun.
Aside from the few king pins who moved onto the pages of The Sun soon after NoW closed, sources say there’s been no evidence of recruiting from the rank and file of the NoW.
A few senior roles, though advertised, were apparently “created” for the likes of NoW deputy editor Victoria Newton who joined the Sun in September, consumer editor Dan Jones who joined in November, and political editor David Wooding – who joined the Sun as campaigns editor in October. These players are among those expected to take up roles in the Sun on Sunday.
Who’ll be working underneath them? Currently it looks like Murdoch will be stretching staff at The Sun onto a seven day rota.
Leigh Holmwood, deputy TV editor of The Sun, confirmed on Twitter that he’ll be in the office this Saturday: “Saturday working. The 1st time I’ve done this since I worked in McDonalds when I was 15”.
Trevor Davies, former NoW gadgets editor now on gardening leave, tweeted: “in effect NI crisis is forcing colleagues back a 7-day rota. 12 months ago sun staff would have told them where to stick it”.
Meanwhile, Wooding, who was present on Friday when Murdoch addressed the editorial staff on his intention to launch the Sun on Sunday, told Sky News: “We don’t even know what the staffing levels will be at this stage.
“I’m told there will be extra staff taken on but this is not the News of the World in another guise, this is The Sun publishing on another day.”
Another former NoW staff member, Tom Latchem, said while he was happy for the newspaper industry, he was sad for his former colleagues still struggling to find work.
He tweeted: “There’s still a lot of anger among the 300 innocent NOTW journalists who feel unfairly punished as the Sun on Sunday starts up. #sunonsunday”.
The arrest of 10 members of staff at the Sun hasn’t put Murdoch off launching the Sun on Sunday.
But perhaps it’s too much of a brave new world for the octogenarian to re-employ the hoards of journalists who lost their jobs at the News of the World.
Some key players were rescued by The Sun, but are the rank and file now too “toxic” for their own sister paper?
Certainly, there’s little evidence of the “vast majority” of them joining the ranks of News International’s other titles, as the company promised. Though many did of course accept redundancy pay outs, finding a new job in the shadow of the scandal hasn’t been easy.
Would they even join the Sun on Sunday? Probably, say our sources. A job’s a job, after all.
The problem is, as Thurlbeck points out, “it has been more than seven months since the News of the World closed and the world has kept spinning quite nicely without it”.
Whether the Sun can take the 7-day strain and shine every Sunday without the hundreds of hacks that made NoW number one, only time will tell.
By Emma Thelwell