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UK reacts to closure of News of the World

Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, the UK's biggest selling paper, was closed today in a gambit to tamp down spiraling public anger at the tabloid's practices.

By Nathalie RothschildContributor / July 7, 2011

A man looks at a phone in front of a News International building in London, on Wednesday, July 6. The British Sunday tabloid News of the World was closed today.

Matt Dunham/AP

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London

Rupert Murdoch's decision to shutter the British Sunday tabloid News of the World – the largest circulation paper in the UK – has the British press and social media in a frenzy. The public has reacted with a mix of shock, glee and delight.

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The paper is a tiny piece of Murdoch's sprawling News Corporation empire (the company had $32 billion in sales last year) and is being jettisoned as he seeks regulatory approval to take over British broadcaster BSkyB. With NotW embroiled in a deepening scandal over hacking into cell phones and paying police officers for information, there have been growing calls for the deal to be blocked.

Meanwhile, criminal investigations grind on. The Guardian reports today that Andy Coulson, a former editor of the paper who stepped down as Prime Minister David Cameron's communications director in January, as the scandal started to break, will be arrested for questioning tomorrow. Mr. Coulson's predecessor as NotW boss, Rebekah Brooks, was promoted to head all of Murdoch's print operations in the UK, and currently retains her job.

"It's absolutely disgusting," says one NotW employee. "They've put the staff on the line instead of Rebekah Brooks ... . I'm absolutely in shock. It seems Rupert would do anything to save the Sky deal, including killing off the biggest selling newspaper in the country. No one has any idea what's going to happen."

As the news broke, just at the end of office hours, there were mixed reactions among white- and blue-collar workers gathering at the newsstands, pubs, and cafes of Fleet Street, London’s former media heartland.

David Bryant, a recruitment consultant, said: “I’m horrified. Tabloids are sometimes unscrupulous about how they get their stories. The News of the World has made a massive mistake and needs to be held accountable, but it’s very bad for Britain if we stop printing newspapers. It has severe implications for free speech.”

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