In the wake of the News Corp scandal and the resignation of their own paper’s publisher/CEO, the editors of the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal came out swinging today (7/18/11) against critics who would question the Journal‘s own standards and even “perhaps injure press freedom in general.”
Today’s editorial first goes for deflection: Scotland Yard’s failure to stop the hacking is “more troubling than the hacking itself,” and “it is also worth noting the irony of so much moral outrage devoted to a single media company, when British tabloids have been known for decades for buying scoops and digging up dirt on the famous.” (As if bribing police officers and illegally hacking into phones are “buying scoops and digging up dirt.”)
The paper also warns against U.S. investigations into News Corp wrongdoing, reminding readers of the Valerie Plame Wilson case, in which the New York Times‘ Judy Miller did jail time for refusing to reveal which Bush administration official leaked the identity of the undercover CIA officer to right-wing columnist Bob Novak–an episode the Journal recalled as a Times-led “posse to hang Novak and his sources.” Asked the editors, “Do our media brethren really want to invite Congress and prosecutors to regulate how journalists gather the news?”
In the Plame Wilson case, remarkably few in the media actually supported the government investigation, instead claiming source confidentiality ought to be absolute–no matter that the “whistleblowing” being protected was actually political retribution against a whistleblower. (See Extra!, 9-10/05.) Journalism that serves the public interest is crucial for a democracy and should be protected from state interference. But journalism that gives government officials cover to punish whistleblowers, or that hacks into people’s phones in order to sell more copies of a newspaper, hardly serves the public interest. And the Journal made clear which master its version of journalism serves:
Our readers can decide if we are a better publication than we were four years ago, but there is no denying that News Corp. has invested in the product. The news hole is larger. Our foreign coverage in particular is more robust, our weekend edition more substantial, and our expansion into digital delivery ahead of the pack. 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.