, LONDON, Feb 20 – Rupert Murdoch began work on Monday on the first Sunday edition of his top-selling British tabloid The Sun, seven months after the closure of its scandal-ridden sister title News of the World.
Publisher News International said the US-based mogul would be in London to oversee the launch this Sunday and confirmed that the editor of the weekday paper, Dominic Mohan, would also edit the Sun on Sunday.
A News International spokeswoman said in an email to AFP on Monday: “Dominic (Mohan) is the editor and yes, Rupert Murdoch is overseeing the launch.”
Murdoch, 80, flew in to Britain last week to announce the creation of the new paper and to promise demoralised staff he would stand by them despite the arrest of senior Sun journalists over bribery allegations.
“Rupert Murdoch said during his visit on Friday that a new Sunday title would be published ‘very soon’ – and that is a week from today,” the company’s chief executive Tom Mockridge said in an internal memo to staff on Sunday.
“Rupert will be staying in London to oversee the launch.”
“We will have to act quickly over the coming days. This is our moment. I am sure every one of us will seize the opportunity to pull together and deliver a great new dawn for The Sun this Sunday.”
It will replace the News of the World tabloid, the top-selling Sunday newspaper which Murdoch shut down in July amid a spiralling scandal over the hacking of voicemails belonging to celebrities, politicians and crime victims.
Murdoch – the chief and founder of the US-based News Corporation media empire – took to Twitter shortly after the announcement to say that investors backed his decision.
“Just for the record: Newscorp shares up 60c (cents) on news of Sun on Sunday. Highest for year,” he wrote.
The Sun, which sells 2.5-million copies a day, splashed the news in black, white and red all over the front page of its Monday edition, saying: “The Sun Next Sunday.”
Inside it carried a full page of some of its best known front covers and a picture of Murdoch examining The Sun coming off the presses in 1969. The story had the headline: “Every day’s a Sun day”.
“Forty-three years ago when Rupert Murdoch first launched a new-look Sun, we promised that YOU, our readers, would be at the heart of all we do,” said the tabloid.
“Now we are answering your clamour for a Sunday edition of the nation’s favourite paper. You told us it could not come soon enough, and next weekend the historic new edition of The Sun will rise.”
Among the covers it left out were “Gotcha”, printed after the sinking of the Argentine warship General Belgrano during the 1982 Falklands War, and “Up Yours Delors”, a 1990 example when the paper criticised Jacques Delors, the French chief of the then-European Common Market.
Mohan called the launch of the new Sunday paper “a truly historic moment in newspaper publishing”.
Murdoch earlier stressed that a criminal investigation into claims that journalists paid British police and defence officials for information would not cause The Sun to suffer the same fate as the News of the World.
The hacking scandal at the defunct weekly tabloid has also spawned three police probes and a government-ordered inquiry into the standards and ethics of the British press.
Mark Lewis, a lawyer representing several phone-hacking victims, said he had been expecting Murdoch to launch the Sun on Sunday but cast doubt over its success.
“Only the timing is a surprise,” he said.
“I am sure that many who read The Sun on Saturday will also read the Sun on Sunday. Whether the former readers of the News of the World will feel comfortable being Sun readers remains to be seen.”
The paper’s future was clouded by the arrests last weekend of five of its senior journalists on allegations of bribery, in addition to five former and current staff members arrested on similar charges since November.
Many employees are angry at the role of News Corp. in the arrests, which were based on information uncovered by the Management and Standards Committee set up by the company in response to the phone-hacking crisis.