The announcement that the News of the World will close after this weekend was greeted with shock and amazement by journalists at News International.
Staff at the publisher's other newspapers received the statement by chairman James Murdoch and gasps were heard across the newsrooms at Wapping as they reached the line: "This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World."
The first person at The Times to read it swore out loud. One member of staff said: "It took a few minutes for everyone to read through the statement. There was a 'f****** hell' from the first person who read it. Then there were lots of gasps and general amazement. Everyone is talking about it. People are still astonished and a bit worried."
The National Union of Journalists said that sub editors at The Sun had walked out in sympathy with News of the World staff. But a News International spokeswoman said "a few" Sun journalists had left work at the same time as their colleagues, when it was the end of the working day.
Times editor James Harding addressed the newspaper's staff at 5.15pm, telling them: "The best answer we can give to what is happening around us is to be judged by the quality of our journalism." He told them he had been informed of the decision at 4pm, one Times reporter said. Another said: "He told us we should continue to be proud of being Times journalists and maintaining our high standards and that he didn't know any more than us." Assistant news editor Lech Mintowt-Czyz tweeted: "Lots of people gathered outside the office. Smoking or talking to their families on their mobiles. Shock in their eyes."
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said: "This shows the depths to which Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants at News International are prepared to stoop. The announcement James Murdoch should be making today is the dismissal of Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of News International. The shocking revelations this week show beyond doubt the systemic abuse and corruption at the top of the operation ran by both Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. Yet News International has persistently lied about the extent of this scandal and tried to pass it off as a problem created by a couple of rogue reporters.
"Closing the title and sacking over 200 staff in the UK and Ireland, and putting scores more freelances and casuals out of a job, is an act of utter cynical opportunism. Murdoch is clearly banking on this drawing a line under the scandal, removing an obstacle to the BSkyB deal, and letting his senior executives off the hook. That simply won't wash. It is not ordinary working journalists who have destroyed this paper's credibility - it is the actions of Murdoch's most senior people.
"James Murdoch was absolutely right when he said in his statement today that 'Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad'. Yet those wrongdoers are still there today, at the top of the News International empire and ordinary staff at the paper are paying with their livelihoods.
"The closure of the News of the World - a newspaper that has been in print now for 168 years - is a calculated sacrifice by Rupert Murdoch to salvage his reputation and that of News International, in the hope that readers will switch allegiance to a new seven-day operation at The Sun, the Government will wave through the BSkyB deal and he will widen his grip on the UK's media landscape.
"It is ironic that 25 years after the Wapping dispute it is the behaviour of Rupert Murdoch and his management that has caused the closure of the newspaper. The NUJ will offer all support to its members at the News of the World facing compulsory redundancies and will be organising an emergency meeting of all journalists at the title to offer advice and support."