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Demise of paper and privacy

The venerable British tabloid The News of The World has printed its last edition.

The venerable British tabloid The News of The World has printed its last edition.

The 168-year-old publication, an institution of the gutter press, was abruptly shut down this week by owner Rupert Murdoch as ever-more sordid details emerge of its immoral - and probably illegal - approach to journalism.

Some of the revelations echo the oldest traditions of muckraking, such as bribery of police officers and harassment of celebrities - inexcusable, but certainly not surprising behaviour for the famously vicious rag. But what has enraged the British public, rattled their government and killed off a newspaper older than the nation of Canada is the phone hacking.

News of the World staff allegedly gained access to the cellphones of veterans' grieving families, and to the phone of a missing teenager who was later found murdered.

Incredibly, the hackers are said to have deleted messages from the girl's phone - even as the police continued to search for her - in order to make room for more messages, more story leads. Their methods were as simple as their motives were slimy.

So as one symbol of an earlier media age falls, we are given another reminder, if one is needed, of the new era of hypermedia we live in.

Ubiquitous wireless devices mean the end of anonymity in public, as Vancouverites well know, but they also provide a route for anyone to invade our private moments should they pique the curiosity of even the most unskilled snoopers.

Individuals can watch the crowd, but the crowd watches back.

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