Not The Sun. Surely, anything but The Sun. There’s just no way Rupert Murdoch would kill his baby, the red top that’s by far and away his best-selling paper, the 10th biggest-selling paper in the world with a whopping 2.7 million circulation, his pride and joy?

Speculation the paper could be on the chopping block, or at the very least sold off, has been mostly fuelled by the comments of Labour MP Chris Bryant — the same Chris Bryant who triggered the now infamous admission from Rebekah Brooks that, yes, on occasion they did pay police for information — has said it stands to reason that if a disgraced masthead was closed for similar offences, then The Sun should be next. Bryant, and disgruntled Sun insiders who feel the paper is being hung out to dry.

But News International chief Tom Mockridge has told staff in a widely-circulated memo that he has received “a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper”. He also conceded the escalating police inquiry was the greatest crisis in the paper’s history.

Today’s Guardian editorial makes the distinction between good tabloid journalism and bad tabloid journalism:

“On the morning of Saturday’s police raids, the Daily Mail published the latest fruits of its long investigation into the connections between the billionaire financier Nat Rothschild, the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and Lord Mandelson, having won a libel action in which Associated Newspapers had to risk enormous costs. That was gutsy tabloid journalism, and a gritty defence of it. The Sun, at its best, also makes a vigorous and essential contribution to reporting and debate — see its recent campaign for frontline troops to be properly equipped.”

That, and headlines like “Injured on ice! Jennifer Ellison suffers a blow to the head during ‘scorpion kick’ – but finished routine to receive best score yet” and “Pizza-only diet could kill me, says scared Claire” and, of course, the 1986 classic “Freddie Starr ate my hamster”.

And then there’s the indefensible stuff. Which is where these latest five arrests come in. Ten journalists have now been arrested.

Murdoch commentator Michael Wolff says sell The Sun off, cut it loose, much like a gangrenous limb: “What’s happening in Britain is eating News Corp up — its slow, agonising pace may even be more corrosive than the prospect of trials and even potential convictions. An extraordinary corporate death is taking place.” But media commentator Roy Greenslade “cannot believe that Murdoch will take the nuclear option by closing his beloved paper, nor do I imagine him offering it for sale. Not yet, anyway.”

And yet, says Greenslade, “that we can contemplate it happening at all illustrates the paper’s predicament. Renowned for setting the news agenda by holding politicians, police and public officials to account, it now finds itself at the other end of a media storm.”

Which is no place for a paper to be.

Peter Fray

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