In case you missed the big news yesterday, The Guardian broke a News Corp. scandal. According to the paper, the European edition of The Wall Street Journal had been funneling money through companies to secretly buy huge quantities of the paper at a discount, thus misleading readers and advertisers about the Journal’s circulation numbers.
Not good, right? Especially when the Journal’s parent, News Corp., is already dealing with the phone hacking incident. Even if this ends up being not as big of a deal as it seems, it’s still enough to make people — once again — question the company, and that’s never a good thing.
Here are a few other reactions to the scandal from the media world.
Jack Shafer thinks that the scandal could go away quickly, considering that the alleged advertiser friendly copy in the Journal was all in special sections:
The articles in most special sections aren’t embarrassing or unethical as much as they’re useless. You’ll rarely find a critical article in a special section, so why bother reading? The intended audience for special sections isn’t readers, it’s advertisers. As a rule, special sections are two steps up from supplements titled “Advertising Supplement,” which are written by outside writers, and two steps down from a newspaper’s regular coverage. There are good special sections out there—I’m thinking of the ones that run in the Economist—but most of them suck.
Shafer does add that in order for this to go away quick, heads are going to have to roll at the paper.
Felix Salmon takes a more cynical view of the scandal and says that the biggest problem is that News Corp. might have lost consumer trust forever:
As a result, the rest of the world is simply going to assume the worst — that anything rumored or imagined is probably true and has just been successfully covered up for the time being. That’s really bad for News Corp. The only silver lining is that for the time being, all of the wrongdoing has been confined to the newspaper businesses. If anything gets uncovered at Fox or Sky or HarperCollins, it’s surely all over for Rupert — the culture of corruption will have been shown to have infected the entire organization.
MSNBC also took a look at the bigger picture, citing a journalistic ethics specialist:
Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute with a focus on journalistic ethics, called the allegations huge and surprising. She said the issues were especially disconcerting because they involve the Wall Street Journal, generally considered the pinnacle of News Corp.’s journalism reputation.
‘People are looking at this and saying, Hmm, maybe we were wrong. Maybe the parent company can undermine the integrity of a solid journalism organization in real and substantial ways,’ she said.