Late last week Rupert Murdoch was apologizing all over the place for his company’s phone hacking and police bribery scandals. But based on the astonishingly defensive editorial about the matter in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, it seems that Murdoch considers himself to be a victim. Here are some of the main points that the company’s raising:
Our critics are blowing things out of proportion: This isn’t about an anything-goes culture that cuts across News Corp’s corporate and newsgathering practices, the Journal suggests. It’s just about “phone-hacking years ago at a British corner” of the company. What’s more, if Scotland Yard failed to enforce the anti-hacking laws years ago “then that is more troubling than the hacking itself.”
Our critics are hypocrites: British politicians now criticizing the cozy relationship between the government and the press “are also the same statesmen who have long coveted media support.” And the BBC and the Guardian, which have been all over the scandal, “skew their coverage” to “influence public affairs…The Schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw.” The Journal is particularly irked by members of the Bancroft family who now say that they regret selling the paper’s parent, Dow Jones, to Murdoch in 2007. The family’s “appetite for dividends meant that little cash remained to invest in journalism. We shudder to think what the Journal would look like today without the sale to News Corp.”
Why’s everybody so shocked?: Whatever you think about News Of The World “British tabloids have been known for decades for buying scoops and digging up dirt on the famous.” Fleet Street has “a well-earned global reputation for the blind-quote, single-sourced story that may or may not be true. The understandable outrage in this case stems from the hacking of a noncelebrity, the murder victim Milly Dowler.”
Stop picking on Les Hinton: Speaking of what may or may not be true, the Journal says it has “no reason to doubt” Hinton’s claim that when he ran News International he had no idea how extensively News Of The World was hacking phones — including when he misled Parliament by confidently testifying that the problem was limited to a few bad apples. Besides, he’s been good for the Journal since “the measure that really matters is the market’s, and on that score Mr. Hinton was at the helm when we again became America’s largest daily.” Hinton resigned on Friday as CEO of Dow Jones.
Don’t go after News Corp for violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: This may prove to be the company’s most important argument now that the FBI is investigating News Corp. The law was designed to go after companies that bribe foreign officials to land business abroad. But the Journal says that the First Amendment should stop U.S. law enforcement agencies from using the law to go after companies like News Corp that pay people for news. That would turn “traditional newsgathering into criminal acts.” Although the Journal says it doesn’t pay sources, “the practice is common elsewhere in the press, including in the U.S….Do our media brethren really want to invite Congress and prosecutors to regulate how journalists gather the news?”