Rupert Murdoch has thrown his full support behind The Sun, announcing the upcoming launch of a Sunday edition of the paper, inviting all of its arrested journalists to return to work and offering to pay their legal fees.
News Corp. took credit for providing London police with the information that led to the arrest of five Sun journalists this past Saturday on suspicion of bribery, leading to reports of widespread anger at the tabloid. Staffers were incredulous that Murdoch or his lieutenants would aid in the arrest of their own employees.
But Murdoch flew to London this week and on Friday used a staff memo and a visit to the offices to reinvigorate the staff.
In his note, Murdoch explained that the company has to cooperate with the police, but that “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.”
He also discussed “launching the Sun on Sunday very soon,” a move that has been discussed ever since the closure of the News of the World, the News Corp. tabloid shuttered in response to a massive phone hacking scandal.
The Sun is News Corp.’s largest U.K. newspaper, but also the second to have several of its journalists arrested by the police.
Murdoch’s staff memo and his visit have produced quite positive reviews on the other side of the Atlantic, even at a competitor such as The Guardian where Roy Greenslade wrote “Rupert Murdoch looked as if he hand no hand to play. But the old gambler came up trumps by producing a couple of surprise cards from his sleeve. By cancelling the suspensions of the arrested Sun journalists he will have quelled the rebellion in the ranks. And by pledging to launch the Sun on Sunday he will have given the staff a sense of a long-term commitment to the paper and his UK empire.”
The paper also quotes several staffers saying that while Murdoch is not out of the woods, he made a big difference with his visit.
As the total number of arrested Sun journalists climbs into double digits — as it did at the News of the World — Murdoch must weigh his desire to promote print journalism, where his career started, with the possiblity of cutting his losses.
For now, he remains a champion of print.