Ten million people are dying of starvation in The Horn of Africa, but you didn't read about that in the papers on Sunday because all of the journalists in the land were clutching their winkies and running about in a frenzied tizzy because one of their own had been hit. The News of the World has drawn its last breath and the temporary demise, before its resurrection under another name, of the Newscorpse muckraker on Sunday trumped all other stories. One of its chiefs has said that it is The Guardian wot won it, that went for the paper and got it in the end, which is exactly the sort of thinking that the paper tended to excoriate in the feckless oafs whose escapades it catalogued on a weekly basis: the citing of an external locus of control, the abandoning of any thought that its own actions may have predicated its downfall - "it weren't me, I ain't dun nuffink". The notion that the little old Guardian, all meusli and skew-whiff hair, brown cords and backpacks has been picking on the mightiest and most powerful information machine on the planet is as laughable as it is pathetic. Maybe it was the nation's mothers who were to blame? Mumsnet has been doing its own work against the giant. Perhaps it is just the combined forces of those who have been done wrong by the paper. Perhaps it's karma. Just maybe it is due to little Ed Milliband, who in the space of a week, has seen his chance, claimed the high ground and grown a pair, or as he would put it: "gwowd a bare".
A stain on the soul of this great country has been partly expunged, and everyone is talking like there has been a death in the family, as though a vital part of their lives has been torn away. This time next month, it won't even be missed on a Sunday. It's memory dissipated on the wind like a bad smell. The nation will vicariously peek up the dresses of the rich and shameless via some other organ, or not at all. Think of it: a whole week without knowing which actor has stuck a rolled up note of high denomination up his nose or which footballer inserted a private part of his personal area in some willing sinner that is not, for all intents and purposes, his wife. Who cares about this stuff? Who remembers it? And if you can recall who it was that Peter did, or Wayne, or any of the others, how do you feel about that? Really, how does knowing those names actually make you feel about yourself? Does it make you feel as though there might have been something more edifying, more improving and less dark to have read on all those Sundays? Does it make you want to take a shower?
The paper that is receiving the kind of send-off coverage normally reserved for a princess has printed its last and Elton was right - sorry seems to be the hardest word. They may have apologised, it was hard to hear over the clatter of industrial sized shredding machines that have been keeping Fleet Street up all night this past week. In between the pages of bleating self pity, what they did print was their greatest hits, a pull-out-and-keep-for-a-while supplement of their biggest scoops, a self selected collection of the thing we will be missing. Edit out the coverage of stories that simply happened while they were being printed, like The Titanic and Diana and what we got for our money, and the ceding of power, was a list of grubby, druggy sexual shenanigans accompanied by surreptitiously taken pictures of, well, it could have been anyone really, but we are assured illustrate the physogs of the sort of person who is celebrated only in the sense that the press conspire to write about them. Certainly no-one you would want to share your sofa with, or spread over the breakfast table. A trail of misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia - is there an 'ic, 'ia or 'ist it has not been accused of? A relentless parade of lives ruined, of people picked on by a bully for the titillation of the nation. But hey, it's a living!
And now they face their final curtain. Another one bites the dust, hey, hey, hey.
It is gone but not forgiven.
The News of the World, 1843 - 2011 - thanks for the mammaries.