News of the World staff leave after final edition

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The editor of Britain's News of the World paid tribute to his staff as they left the tabloid's offices late Saturday, after an emotional last day before it closes over a phone hacking scandal.

Holding up a copy of Sunday's final edition of the top-selling weekly, splashed with the headline "Thank You and Goodbye", Colin Myler said no editor ever wanted to be in charge when their newspaper closed.

"Of course I didn't close it," he told reporters outside the News of the World's offices in Wapping, east London, in reference to the decision taken by the tabloid's owner, media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

As his staff gathered behind him, he said: "I want to pay tribute to this wonderful team of people here, who, after a really difficult day, have produced in a brilliantly professional way a wonderful newspaper.

"As I said to staff this morning, this is not where we wanted to be and it not where we deserved to be.

"But as a final tribute to 7.5 million readers this (paper) is for you, and for the staff, thank you.

"And now, in the best traditions of Fleet Street, we are going to the pub."

Myler was given three cheers by the staff, many wearing News of the World t-shirts, although some had tears in their eyes.

Despite anger at Murdoch's decision to make Sunday's edition the last ever, a spokeswoman said every member of the 168-year-old title's staff had turned up on Saturday to make the final newspaper one to remember.

"At my NOTW desk for the last time. Let's go out with a bang," tweeted the newspaper's deputy political editor, Jamie Lyons.

Speaking earlier, political editor David Wooding said: "It's quite strange really.

"We're bringing out a paper as we do every week. But the mood's one of, 'Gosh, this is really the last time', and when we walk out of here tonight it's all over.

"This huge edifice, a great British brand, the most successful, profitable and highest selling paper, is gone."

Murdoch pulled the plug on Thursday after a long-running scandal over phone hacking at the tabloid exploded into a national row with claims that murdered children and relatives of soldiers killed in combat were among those targeted.

Few of the more than 200 staff who have lost their jobs worked on the paper at the time of the alleged hacking, during the early to mid 2000s, and there was a sense of frustration that they were the ones being punished.

"We do feel like we have paid the price for a small group of people who are no longer at the paper," Lyons said, defending the current staff as people of "enormous ability" and "unimpeachable integrity".

Chief sub editor Alan Edwards added: "We are like a family up there and there's very much that feel that we're all pulling together.

"It's obviously very sad, but I think what's important is that we are all professional journalists and we are all incredibly proud of what we do."

Helen Moss, a news and features sub editor, said the final day in the office had been "extremely sad" and emotional. "But every single one of us working up there today is very proud of working for the News of the World," she said.

Executives at News International, the paper's parent company, have promised to try to find jobs for all those left unemployed by the closure, and a Sunday edition of the daily Sun tabloid is reportedly being considered.

© 2011 AFP

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