‘WSJ’ Editorials Point Fingers at the Competition

Further News Corp. defense from its U.S. paper

Following on the heels of yesterday’s not-so-well-received Wall Street Journal op-ed piece defending News Corp. (and skewering its critics), the newspaper has published three more opinion pieces attempting to tear down the competition's credibility.

In an opinion piece titled “The Murdoch Empire: An Inside View,” features editor Robert Pollock confronts the many people—including Adweek’s Michael Wolff—who believe that News Corp. has swayed the WSJ’s political coverage.

But according to Pollock, the only influence that Rupert Murdoch has attempted to exert over the newspaper is the occasional suggestion concerning article length—much less political tone. “If Rupert Murdoch has a thought-out plan to influence politics and the op-ed editor of The Wall Street Journal doesn't know about it,” Pollock writes, “it must be a very subtle plan indeed.”

In fact, says Pollock, other outlets' publishers are well-known for meddling in editorial affairs, unlike Murdoch. “Everyone knows the Sulzbergers interfere in The New York Times,” he says. “The Grahams are not hands-off owners of the Washington Post. Wall Street Journal editors and writers had been by far the freest at a major American newspaper. That freedom continued under Mr. Murdoch."

In another opinion piece, columnist Bret Stephens claims that the News Corp. phone hacking scandal and the Julian Assange-led WikiLeaks spill at The New York Times and the Guardian are “largely the same story.”

“In both cases, secret information, initially obtained by illegal means, was disseminated publicly by news organizations that believed the value of the information superseded the letter of the law, as well as the personal interests of those whom it would most directly affect,” Stephens writes, comparing the News of the World’s giving Milly Dowler's parents false hope after deleting her voicemails with Afghan citizens’ fear of reprisals after being exposed as informants by WikiLeaks. “The damage caused by WikiLeaks almost certainly exceeded what was done by News of the World,” Stephens says, “precisely because Mr. Assange and his media enablers were targeting bigger—if often more vulnerable—game.”

Stephens goes on to criticize the continued portrayal of Murdoch as a “media Sauron”—despite his attempts to make right by apologizing to the Dowlers, shutting down the tabloid, and accepting the resignations of his top executives. “But as someone noted recently in connection to L'Affaire DSK,” he says, “few things are as unstoppable—or as prone to error—as a stupid media narrative.”

In a third article by James Taranto, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera is blown apart for claiming that “The Wall Street Journal has been Fox-ified.” According to Taranto, Nocera’s defense hinges on the sole fact that the WSJ has used “democrat” as a noun—“and his case is even weaker than it looks.”

Taranto goes on to dissect the meaning and usage of the word “democrat,” rounding up its appearances in the WSJ—all of which were either used in quotes from other sources or as space-saving devices in headlines, and none showing any conservative leaning in the newspaper—as well as on Fox News, with similar results. Taranto also lists the other media outlets that he feels have been improperly using the word “democrat,” including The New York Times, the Guardian, CNN, and CBS, among others.

But a “minor editing lapse” doesn’t necessarily make these outlets—or the WSJ“Republican propaganda machines” as Nocera claims, says Taranto, and concludes by accusing Nocera of “bad-mouthing the competition” based on “shoddy evidence.”