LONDON -- The Pre-Raphaelites, not Rupert Murdoch, were on my mind when I planned a return to England.
But as our departure drew near, I knew I could be in for a postman's holiday. After 168 years of publication, the Murdochs pulled the plug on their paper the News of the World, one day before I landed in London.
Regardless of its age, I never venerated the News of the World, and I always saw Rupert Murdoch with blood on his hands. With all of his many headed media, he shouted for war in the Middle East. Although there was never a reason for a single American or British soldier to invade Iraq, Murdoch drummed for war in print and on his famous Fox News. He should give account for every dead, dismembered, or displaced person from the unnecessary Iraq war.
But I could certainly imagine all the people who worked there seeing their mortgages, retirement plans, and hopes go up in the same kind of flames they once lit under hapless celebrities, royals and sexual mismatches.
I could imagine all the energy and sweat they poured into that final edition while, several floors away from the fray, an editor was getting her hair done. As one worker about to lose his job explained to a reporter for The Guardian, editor Rebekah Brooks showed her true colors in the beauty parlor.
Rebekah Brooks was Rupert Murdoch's right hand woman. He called her his "fifth daughter." She edited the News of the World, and she has glorious, long curly red hair, like a Pre-Raphaelite model. Besides leaving her staff in their darkest hour, she was also at the helm during the hacking scandal.
At first blush, one might think the News of the World scandal would revolve around its unquenchable thirst for titillation. But the unfolding drama revealed an unseemly mix of police, politicians and press people winking, nodding, lying, and, yes, stealing.
As I clutched my copies of The Guardian daily, I could not wait to read every word of a newspaper drama that played out in more than black and white. I saw heads of press and police fall in a flash. Like other readers, I wonder if the prime minister will fall, too.
As if this drama was not enough, enter a man who tried to smack Rupert Murdoch in the face with a plate of shaving cream when Murdoch was questioned in Parliament. Murdoch's trophy wife sprang like a tiger to protect the father of her children's fortunes. In her swift rise from her seat to hit the assailant, Wendi Murdoch became an Internet sensation.
Then the farce turned quickly to tragedy. A former News of the World reporter apparently killed himself. Sean Hoare had earlier told other reporters, including those with the New York Times, about how common phone hacking was at his former paper.
Murdoch's son James shocked everyone with his decision to close the News of the World, a giant cash cow for the Murdoch empire. James Murdoch thought this unprecedented move would take everyone's eyes off a large elephant in almost every home in England.
This elephant did some amazing tricks. It dished out dirt. You want to read about which athlete, which star, which royal is having sex with someone they should not be alone with? The Murdochs provided it. They quoted line for line from phone conversations, health records and police reports.
So James Murdoch ran a stake through the heart of the old News of the World. With this sacrifice, he thought that he could keep moving forward with his plans to reach the sky -- Sky News that is. He had every reason to believe that all of England's politicians, even the current prime minister, would only wink and nod in agreement as he sucked up all the shares in the amazingly lucrative Sky News. With all those shares, the Murdoch Empire would grow even bigger.
For years, politicians did nothing to oppose the Murdoch machine. Too many of them feared that if they protested, they would become front-page news with embarrassing pictures to accompany the story.
But real reporters, honorable reporters were working hard to make sure the smoke and mirrors did not cloud the public's vision. Reporters with the Guardian had been explaining for years that people on the payroll at the NOTW where stealing information wherever they could get it.
Sadly, I fear, too many people think all reporters are willing to do anything to get a story. I can assure you this is not true. Reporters at The Guardian did yeomen's work.
Some readers may also think that if a highly paid athlete, a glittering star or an underemployed royal is caught with knickers down -- so be it. But as it came to light, the hacking scandal did not stop with the rich and well-born. Universally, everyone has drawn back in horror when they realized that hackers even broke into the phone of a missing teenage girl. True teenager, her phone mailbox was full the day she disappeared from school. The monsters employed by the NOTW actually deleted messages to give themselves room to maneuver. This techno crudity had the sad effect of giving her parents false hope that she was still alive and using her phone.
Unfortunately, six months later, Milly Dowler's parents discovered she had been brutally murdered.
Everyone could see and renounce such a painful invasion of privacy. While this might be the worst example, it was certainly not the only one.
Even former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his family suffered from hackers. The Guardian reported that Editor Rebekah Brooks, not one of her reporters, rang up the Browns after her crack staff learned that the Browns' infant son suffered from cystic fibrosis.