Plans for the launch of the Sun on Sunday, which had been planned for April, have been put on hold following the arrests at the weekend of four current and former senior Sun journalist in connection with phone hacking, according to insiders quoted by the FT.
The plans to put the paper on hold come as News Corporation last night announced the loss of its second senior public relations executive in as many days as news broke that chief spokeswoman Teri Everett is leaving. She had most recently worked on shepherding the company’s PR efforts through a phone hacking scandal in London
Everett, who was senior VP of corporate affairs and communications, leaves next week. Her exit follows the announcement on Friday of Matthew Anderson, News Corporation’s group director of strategy and corporate affairs for Europe and Asia, is to leave next month.
Everett is to be replaced by Julie Henderson, Everett’s West Coast counterpart. She has been promoted to senior VP of corporate affairs and chief communications officer, expanding her role to include oversight of the News Corp’s global communications, corporate affairs and social responsibility efforts.
“Everett has been at News Corp. for more than a decade and most recently helped shepherd the company’s PR efforts through a phone hacking scandal in the U.K. that erupted last July and transfixed media around the world. It is still ongoing but the impact Stateside at least appears to have dialled down, Variety reported.
At the weekend police arrested four former and current Sun journalists including the paper’s executive editor Fergus Shanahan, head of news Chris Pharo, crime editor Mike Sullivan and former managing editor Graham Dudman. They were arrested after News International handed over a cache of documents, as reported by the Guardian.
The arrests were a huge shock to all and it has been confirmed that the four did not know they were under investigation. While they have been assured they will receive legal support the arrests have rocked confidence at the Sun.
That much is clear from Sun editor Dominic Mohan’s comments in the Times on his address to a “shocked newsroom”:
““There was said to be fury and dismay in The Sun newsroom over the arrests. Staff were thought to be particularly angered by a figure within the publishing group who apparently described the process as ‘draining the swamp’, although NI sources insisted the remark did not come from anyone in an authorised position.”
It is a twist that Roy Greenslade says shows “that News Corp is now at war with itself”.
It seemed highly unlikely against this background of investigations and arrests of senior Sun journalists that News Corp would go ahead with a reported launch of a Sun on Sunday in April.
That suspicion has now been confirmed by the FT. It says the plan for the Sun on Sunday, known as Project X, has been delayed although it also said that the penciled in date of April 29 was not set in stone:
“The insiders said that managers of News International had decided that the adverse publicity surrounding the arrests and the suspension of the four journalists while police inquiries were going on would hamper any possible launch of a new title, which earlier reports said would be called the Sun on Sunday.
“It has gone way on to the back burner since Saturday,” one person told the FT.