Rupert Murdoch announced Friday that he is launching a new tabloid, The Sun on Sunday.
Murdoch is in London to calm a staff revolt at The Sun in the wake of a string of recent arrests at the paper, which has become a chief target of a police probe into the bribery of public officials. He made the announcement in an email, and also said that all employees who had been arrested or suspended from their jobs could come back to work.
Murdoch said that the Sun on Sunday — which has been in the works ever since the company's previous Sunday paper, the News of the World, was shut down in the wake of the phone hacking crisis — would launch "very soon." He called the Sun "a part of me" and stressed that everyone who had been arrested was "innocent unless proven otherwise." He also told staffers that he would be staying in London for the next few weeks to show his "unwavering support."
Later, Murdoch toured the Sun newsroom. The Press Association reported that he spoke to several journalists and was accompanied by his son Lachlan.
Sky News correspondent Sophy Ridge reported that "the mood was visibly lifted" when Sun journalists saw the email. The paper has been enveloped in gloom ever since Saturday, when five journalists were arrested in connection with the bribery investigation.
Many journalists within the company were enraged over the arrests, because the information that led to them was provided to the police by News Corp. itself. Over the past week, Murdoch has witnessed an extraordinary public display of anger from his own employees, with senior editors openly deriding News Corp.'s internal investigation into criminal behavior at its newspapers, and others threatening to mount a legal human rights challenge to the company.
Murdoch alluded to the tension the arrests have caused in his email, saying that the situation was "a source of great pain for me." He added, though, that "illegal activities simply cannot and will not be tolerated," a potential signal that the actions of the Management and Standards Committee — the internal group whose cooperation with the police has been the chief source of anger within News Corp. — will continue.
Here is the the text of the email Murdoch sent to the staff at The Sun, via the Guardian:
I've worked alongside you for 43 years to build The Sun into one of the world's finest papers. It is a part of me and is one of our proudest achievements. The Sun occupies a unique and important position within News Corporation.
I have immense respect for our heritage, your exceptional journalism and, above all, you, the talented women and men who work tirelessly every day to ensure our readers have access to such a trusted news source. I believe this newsroom is full of great journalists and I remain grateful for your superb work and for the stories you uncover to inform and protect the public. None more so than over the last three weeks.
My continuing respect makes this situation a source of great pain for me, as I know it is for each of you.
We will obey the law. Illegal activities simply cannot and will not be tolerated – at any of our publications. Our Board of Directors, our management team and I take these issues very seriously.
Our independently chaired Management & Standards Committee, which operates outside of News International, has been instructed to cooperate with the police. We will turn over every piece of evidence we find -- not just because we are obligated to but because it is the right thing to do.
We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested -- all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work. News Corporation will cover their legal expenses. Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.
I made a commitment last summer that I would do everything I could to get to the bottom of our problems and make this Company an example to Fleet Street of ethical journalism. We will continue to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, which I know are essential for all of you to do your jobs. But we cannot protect people who have paid public officials.
I am confident we can live by these commitments and still produce great journalism.
We will build on The Sun's proud heritage by launching The Sun on Sunday very soon. Our duty is to expand one of the world's most widely read newspapers and reach even more people than ever before.
Having a winning paper is the best answer to our critics.
I am even more determined to see The Sun continue to fight for its readers and its beliefs. I am staying with you all, in London, for the next several weeks to give you my unwavering support.
I am confident we will get through this together and emerge stronger.