Well, it’s tricky writing a news digest when there’s only been one story this week, but I guess I should try. The trick is going to be in keeping it short…
The theme of today’s briefscast will be GOODBYE.
The voicemail hacking saga, which yesterday swallowed the News Of The World, and the arrest today of it’s old editor Andy Coulson, is the story that just keeps on giving. You don’t shake a can of fizzy for this long and expect it to stay quiet when you finally pop the top. Closing the venerable red-top is harsh but kind of understandable, given the fact that it was shedding advertisers like a bad case of dandruff and facing a ruinous readership boycott. However, given the fact that NOTW staff had already been “consulted” (shouted at by Rebekah Brookes from a safe balcony) about a merger with The Sun, what we have is a cross between a protective smokescreen for the favoured few and a rebranding exercise for New International’s Sunday tabloid. Bear in mind as well that closing the paper means that, according to the New York Times at least, Murdoch has the right to seal and possibly destroy it’s archives. If there are further revelations waiting to bubble up to the surface, shuttering the title could be a neat way of making sure they never come to light.
Anyway, the story rolls on. Sun sub-editors have come out on strike in solidarity, which could give curious readers the first chance to see long sentences and proper grammar in the paper for a long time. Maybe the friendly philosopher-quoting girls on page Three could help out. I’m sure they could use some spare cash to help replace the worn-out rags in their wardrobe.
This column awaits calls to boycott other News International titles with interest, while waving a flag saying “Boycott News International.” What the affair will mean for a Prime Minister that has closely aligned himself with an increasingly toxic group of friends is another story, and one that is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Space News, as an attempt to get as far away from the Horror At Wapping as possible. Today marks the final flight of the Space Shuttle, after thirty-five years of triumph and tragedy. It’s a sad day. The Shuttle program was crippled with flaws and technical problems, and was hideously over-specced and over-priced. But by making manned spaceflight a common-place, if not everyday occurrence, it brought us that little bit closer to the dream of orbital rides for all. The closure of the program opens the field up for private companies to take up the slack.
I’m no fan of privatisation, but NASA has long been perceived as slow and expensive. The space jockeys and pioneers camped out in the Mojave desert and Florida can do cheap, quick and dirty experimentation, and the sub-orbital planes and stripped down rockets they’re building are generating a hell of a lot of interest. One company have already negotiated the right to take-off and land at Kennedy, making it a commercial spaceport. And if there’s one thing we need more of in this most scientifictional of centuries, it’s more commercial spaceports. Like the early aviators of the twentieth century, risk and experimentation at low cost will drive spaceflight forwards at incredible rates. Expect cool explosions and daring exploits from those magnificent men and women in their rocket machines.
Meanwhile, in London’s slightly shabby Leicester Square, a tent city has sprung up as Harry Potter fans gather to pay tribute and get a last glimpse of their heroes. The release of the final Potter film will be a bittersweet moment for many, especially Fox, who are waving bye-bye to a billion dollar revenue stream. Whatever you might think of Happy, Roy, Herman and co, it has a loyal and massive fanbase that no other franchise comes close to matching. When the best Fox have to offer on that front are 3D reworkings of the Star Wars movies, you can see the problem. This is probably more of a bother to Murdoch than the loss of a British paper which contributes less than a twentieth of the cash that a single Potter will bring in. No wonder the guy looks like a pickled walnut chewing a bulldog these days.
That’s been this weeks News In Briefs, brought to you today by my rainbow-stripe on black M&S specials. Support and freedom of movement have never looked so good.
Have a weekend, Readership.