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The end of an era for British tabloids?

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No sooner had our special report today on British tabloids hit the wire than Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp shocked everybody by announcing it would close down the 168-year-old News of the World.

Steven Barnett, professor of communications at London’s Westminster University, spoke for a lot of people when he said of the news: ”Astonishing. I’m completely gobsmacked. Talk about a nuclear option.”

The big question now is what happens to Rebekah Brooks, a close confidant of Rupert Murdoch and a friend of Prime Minister David Cameron. Her editorship of the News of the World a decade ago is at the heart of some of the gravest accusations about phone-hacking at the paper.

Our story by Mark Hosenball and Kate Holton asks what makes British tabloids tick — and what makes them different from newspapers in other countries.