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U.K.'s scandal-hit News of the World publishes its last edition

By the CNN Wire Staff
News of the World staffers hold up copies of the final edition of the paper outside of their London newsroom Saturday night.
News of the World staffers hold up copies of the final edition of the paper outside of their London newsroom Saturday night.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The tabloid's final headline reads, "Thank you and goodbye"
  • A third man arrested over corruption allegations is released on bail Saturday
  • Former News of the World staff face allegations of phone hacking and corruption
  • Analysts: Murdoch wants to limit damage as he tries to buy U.K. satellite broadcaster

London (CNN) -- Staffers at the scandal-hit News of the World emotionally departed their London newsroom for the last time Saturday night, proudly holding up the final edition of the best-selling British Sunday tabloid.

Scores of the newspaper's employees left their office around 10 p.m., issuing three cheers for their editor Colin Myler before heading out to a local pub. Many carried copies of the final edition, which featured a montage of past covers and a headline that read simply: "Thank you and goodbye."

"I want to pay tribute to this wonderful team of people here," said Myler, gesturing to his staff. "This is not where we wanted to be, or where we deserve to be."

The tabloid, in business since 1843, was abruptly ordered closed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation Thursday amid allegations of phone hacking and police bribery. This weekend's edition was the 8,674th of the paper, Myler said.

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Those ensnared in the related investigation include Andy Coulson, a former editor of the paper and an ex-communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron. He and the paper's former royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, as well as a 63-year-old man were all arrested Friday in connection with allegations of corruption.

Both Coulson and Goodman were released on bail late Friday. The third man, who was not named, was freed on bail Saturday morning. All three were ordered to report to police in October.

The paper's roughly 200-member staff are now out of jobs, but have been told they can apply elsewhere within its parent company, News International -- the main British subsidiary of News Corporation.

News of the World showbiz editor Dan Wootton posted on Twitter that 5 million copies were being printed Sunday, twice the usual circulation of 2.5 million.

Earlier Saturday, a handful of staff brought out mugs of tea to throngs of reporters from other news organizations waiting outside the paper's headquarters in east London.

Meanwhile, the Church of England, which owns shares worth about $6 million in Murdoch's News Corporation empire, has put pressure on him to act over the scandal.

The church's ethical investment committee has written to Murdoch, saying the "behaviour of the News of the World has been utterly reprehensible and unethical."

The letter, part of which is posted on the church's website, says that the closure of News of the World -- while welcome -- does not go far enough.

"We cannot imagine circumstances in which we would be satisfied with any outcome that does not hold senior executives to account at News Corporation for the gross failures of management at the News of the World," the letter says.

Analysts say Murdoch will be eager to limit the damage to News Corporation's bid to take over U.K. satellite broadcaster BSkyB, which has been placed in question by the allegations against News International.

British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt will consider the impact of the News of the World's closure as he reviews its bid for BSkyB, his office said Friday.

According to audio leaked to the media, News International's chief executive Rebekah Brooks said in a meeting with staff Friday that she was "determined to get vindication for this paper. And for people like you."

The final headline of the scandal-hit News of the World reads, "Thank you and goodbye."
The final headline of the scandal-hit News of the World reads, "Thank you and goodbye."

But she also told staff that it had to be shut down because worse revelations about its activities were imminent, the U.K.'s Telegraph newspaper reported.

Brooks has come under increasing pressure to step down over the scandal, with Cameron saying Friday he would have accepted her reported offer to resign.

Police are also investigating evidence that a senior News International executive may have deleted millions of e-mails from an internal archive, according to legal sources cited by the Guardian newspaper.

Chairman James Murdoch, who is Rupert Murdoch's son, said any revenue from the last edition would go to "good causes" and that free advertising space would be offered to charities.

However, the Institute of Fundraising, a membership body for fund-raisers, advised caution over accepting the offer in a statement on its website Friday.

The decision to close the News of the World followed accusations that it illegally eavesdropped on the phone messages of murder and terrorist victims, politicians and celebrities, and claims it may have bribed police officers. Police said Thursday they had identified almost 4,000 potential targets of hacking.

The scandal has prompted questions over the British prime minister's judgment in hiring Coulson after he resigned as editor of the News of the World after two staff were jailed over previous hacking allegations in 2007.

Cameron -- who has announced two public inquiries, one into the phone hacking claims and another into British media conduct -- defended his actions in hiring Coulson on Friday, saying: "The decision to hire him was mine, and mine alone."

He said he had decided to give Coulson a second chance after receiving assurances that he had not been involved in wrongdoing at the newspaper. Coulson has denied knowing about phone hacking while he was editor from 2003 to 2007.

Downing Street on Saturday confirmed that Cameron has approached the United Kingdom's judiciary to suggest names for the judge to lead the inquiry into the News of the World hacking claims.

News of the World was the first British national newspaper Rupert Murdoch bought, in 1969, as he began to propel himself from Australian newspaper proprietor to international media magnate.

In addition to owning News of the World, News International owns the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times in Britain.

Murdoch's News Corporation also encompasses Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Harper Collins publishers.

CNN's Dan Rivers contributed to this report.

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