Britain was greeted with a political rainbow of front pages Wednesday, with the hacking trial dominating the media. But one paper in particular has faced a fierce backlash over its "intolerably smug" coverage.
In a dramatic ending to a months-long trial, jurors tasked with deciding whether or not to convict several top former members of Rupert Murdoch's media empire on phone hacking charges reached a split decision on Monday.
Andy Coulson— the former editor of the News of the World who also served as Prime Minister David Cameron's chief spin doctor— is guilty, while Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Murdoch's British newspaper holdings, was cleared of all charges.
With Brooks cleared but Coulson convicted, Wednesday's coverage by the UK's papers was remarkably polarised.
Murdoch's Sun faced a furious backlash after boasting of a "Great Day For The Red Tops" - with many arguing the publication had choosen to erase Coulson's crimes from history.
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Many took to Twitter in response to The Sun's "shameless" coverage:
Well done to The Sun for producing such an intolerably smug front page today. Amazing work.— Seventy Legs (@ncguk) June 25, 2014
The Sun editorial claims Brooks verdict "a triumph for British justice," avoids stating Andy Coulson found guilty. Did Rupert write it?— The Daily Rupert (@TheMurdochTimes) June 25, 2014
Just see The Sun front page. Feeling nauseous.— Charles Ping (@Charles_Ping) June 25, 2014
The Sun front focuses on Rebekah Brooks being cleared. No mention of its golden boy Andy Coulson being convicted pic.twitter.com/NB3Npj8zsA— Will Black (@WillBlackWriter) June 24, 2014
Just seen that Sun front page. They seem to have forgotten to mention that its ex-showbiz editor has been found guilty.— Justin Lewis (@Mumbler3) June 25, 2014
The Sun front page today makes me feel sick— Sam Macdonald (@MMSamMacdonald) June 25, 2014
Sun's headline proves it hasn't lost its remarkable capacity for bad taste and obfuscation. Coulson?http://t.co/dP6exqD6gZ— richard lafette (@RichardLafette) June 24, 2014
The Sun front page this morning is shameless #DontBuyTheSun— Stuart Hollis (@stuarthollis01) June 25, 2014
Can't help feeling The Sun's front page is rather misjudged and insensitive to hacking victims— Paul Francis (@PaulOnPolitics) June 25, 2014
No room on the Sun's front page to mention that it's former editor and senior government advisor is a criminal. #hackingtrial— Plashing Vole (@PlashingVole) June 25, 2014
How corrupt - both The Times and The Sun fail to have Coulson guilty on their front page but rather lead with Brooks not guilty #skypapers— Martin Heneghan (@MartinHeneghan) June 24, 2014
The Sun and The Times both splash on Brooks being found not guilty. Coulson barely gets a look-in. (Via @suttonnick.)— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) June 24, 2014
Not sure the Sun boasting of a "Great Day For The Red Tops" when Brooks has been cleared but Andy Coulson hasn't been is the right tone— Iain (@Iain_33) June 24, 2014
Mobile alert from The Sun re Brooks acquittal. No mobile alert re Coulson conviction. Go figure.— Dan Hearn (@DanTHearn) June 24, 2014
The majority of the British press decided instead to focus on David Cameron's judgement to hire Coulson as a spin doctor – a decision Ed Miliband slammed, saying the prime minister "brought a criminal into the heart of Downing Street".
The Telegraph and The Times also played down Coulson's guilt to instead focus on Brooks walking free.
Media commentator Roy Greenslade said the different approaches "revealed the deeper ideological split among national newspaper owners and editors."
"This was particularly evident in the editorials and commentaries," he said. "The celebrators viewed the declaration of Brooks's innocence as some kind of proof that the official reaction to hacking had been ill-judged."