News Corporation’s stock has plummeted to a two-year low in Australia, and former News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks has been arrested, both as the world continues to voice outrage over the ongoing phone hacking scandal. Into the maelstrom comes The Wall Street Journal with a searing unsigned editorial telling News Corp.'s critics to get lost.
The editorial takes aim not at the major players in the scandal. Instead, it points fingers at news outlets like the Guardian and the BBC, accusing them of hypocrisy and pushing their own agenda in covering the scandal. The editorial also asserts that Scotland Yard’s inaction in investigating any wrongdoing is worse than the alleged acts themselves. Further, the editorial staunchly defends and praises Les Hinton, a Murdoch confidant who recently resigned as CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of the Journal, due to his role, at the height of the hacking, as head of News International, News Corp.'s British subsidiary that is at the center of the storm.
The editorial also took a shot at the Web-based reporting organization Pro Publica, which last week reported that Bancroft family members now regretted selling Dow Jones & Co. to News Corp. in 2007. In so doing, Pro Publica gets “the prize for righteous hindsight,” the editorial read.
Pro Publica is led by Paul Steiger, a longtime Journal managing editor who left as a result of the sale. Steiger was traveling and couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but Pro Publica fired back with a response: “Our article last week on the views of the former controlling shareholders of Dow Jones accurately reflected the views of key players in the Wall Street Journal’s takeover by Murdoch. The message may have been unwelcome to some, but as we and the Journal reporting staff often tell subjects of our stories, that’s no reason to blame the messenger.”
Many observers and journalists were dismayed by the Journal's reaction and used Twitter as a sounding board for their frustrations. "Deluded dishonest whining victimology delivered in the form of a Wall Street Journal editorial on the phone hacking crisis," NYU professor of journalism Jay Rosen tweeted. Sarah Ellison, contributing editor at Vanity Fair and author of War at the Wall Street Journal, tweeted, "Tonite's WSJ Editorial is sad. I've always defended the Edit page, but now It's a PR arm." BuzzMachine creator Jeff Jarvis echoed the sentiments, tweeting, "Journalists at WSJ, those with self-respect left, should rise up in protest vs. its Murdoch-mouthpiece editorial."
Additional reporting by Lucia Moses.