In an atom-splitting response to a scandal engulfing his media empire, Rupert Murdoch on Thursday decided to close down the News of the World, Reuters reports.
The decision comes as a firestorm of allegations mounted that its journalists hacked the voicemails of thousands of people, from child murder victims to the families of Britain's war dead, and the tabloid began hemorrhaging advertisers and millions of readers.
Yet no one at the 168-year-old paper's staff was prepared for the drama of Murdoch's terse dictat shutting down Britain's highest-selling tabloid.
"News International today announces that this Sunday, 10 July 2011, will be the last issue of the News of the World," read the preamble to a statement from the 80-year old Murdoch's son James, who heads the British newspaper arm of News Corp .
Hailing a fine muck-raking tradition at the paper, which his father bought in 1969, James Murdoch told its staff that the latest explosion of a long-running scandal over phone hacking its by journalists rendered the title untenable.
"The good things the News of the World does ... have been sullied by behavior that was wrong. Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our Company. The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself.
"This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World ... In addition, I have decided that all of the News of the World's revenue this weekend will go to good causes.
"We will run no commercial advertisements this weekend."
Steven Barnett, professor of communications at Westminster University, said he was "gobsmacked":
"Talk about a nuclear option," he told Reuters.
"It will certainly take some of the heat off immediate allegations about journalistic behavior and phone hacking."
Tom Watson, a member of parliament from the opposition Labour party who had campaigned for a reckoning from the paper over the phone hacking scandal, said: "This is a victory for decent people up and down the land.
"I say good riddance to the News of the World."
News of the World journalists were stunned.
"We didn't expect it at all. We had no indication. The last week has been tough...none of us have done anything wrong. We thought we were going to weather the storm," said one News of the World employee who asked not to be named.
The news comes as the paper's former editor Andy Coulson, currently Murdoch's media director, faces arrest in relation to wiretapping charges.
It was unclear whether the company would produce a replacement title for the lucrative Sunday market, in which, despite difficult times for newspaper circulations, News of the World was still selling 2.6 million copies a week.
Prof. Steven Fielding, at the Centre for British Politics at the University of Nottingham, however, said he he believes the company will soon launch another paper in its place.
"I'm deeply skeptical that this actually means they will not be producing a Sunday paper in the near future, relaunched and repackaged -- a Sunday newspaper that will do very similar things to the News of the World, because it's the biggest selling Sunday (paper). It's a cash cow that will be subsidizing other papers, certainly The Times," he told CNN.
Chris Goodall, an analyst at the media research firm Enders Analysis, said the News of the World was the "sacrificial lamb being taken out into the desert and killed" in order to try to save the Murdoch empire's bid to take over UK broadcaster BSkyB.
He suggested News International might publish the News of the World's sister paper, The Sun, seven days a week instead.
"There won't be a vacuum," one pundit opined amidst the buzz. "People eat this stuff up."