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Margaret Heffernan

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Another Empty Gesture From Murdoch

Posted: 07/07/11 02:49 PM ET

Shutting News of the World looks like such a grand gesture. In fact, it's another attempt to look like something is being done -- while in fact changing nothing fundamental within News International.

Shutting the 168-year-old paper isn't a great sacrifice (although, since it was Murdoch's first UK paper, he may feel sentimental about it); it's just bowing to the inevitable. No one wanted to advertise, no one wanted to buy and precious few people wanted to appear in the paper: better to shoot it and put it out of its misery.

But the fact that the URLs for SunonSunday.com and SunonSunday.co.uk were reserved fully two days ago suggests that News International may just be planning to switch its employees over to a "new" paper just like the "old" paper -- but with a new name. This rebranding will fool no one. The fact that the teams are still headed by Rebekah Brooks means nothing will have changed -- except that now, presumably, all her employees will loathe her for failing to protect them.

The fundamental change that Murdoch must confront is that the political parties have discovered a little courage. In unity, they are bold enough to challenge the monster that, heretofore held them in thrall. They might come to enjoy that courage; it certainly plays well with the public.