Slate’s Jack Shafer calls the News Corporation hacking scandal “Murdoch’s Watergate” and says it “will undo the media mogul.”

I wouldn’t want to bet on the latter, but Shafer is right about the seriousness and severity of the scandal and of its parallels to another infamous coverup:

Which brings me back to my Watergate theme, which I shouldn’t overplay. Temporarily, at least, both the News of the World phone-hackings and the Watergate burglaries could be made to appear like rogue operations, not sanctioned by higher-ups, as long as the right hush-money was spent. But the double-teaming of legal investigation and newspaper coverage, the one feeding the other, makes it hard for a coverup to work for long. Add the third element of legislators agitating for testimony from the principals and investigations, and the thing assumes a Watergate aroma.

Think that’s overplaying it? Here’s how I summarized the coverup last week:

We’ve got the scapegoat (Clive Goodman), the pro forma internal investigation saying the problem was contained to said scapegoat, the scramble to hide or destroy evidence, the stonewalling “I don’t recalls” from executives like Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton, the large payments to key witnesses, the police who bent over backwards to avoid pushing an obviously widespread criminal case, the lead police investigator now on Murdoch’s payroll—what am I leaving out?

In other words: deep doo-doo.

Shafer’s postscript:

What Australian beach town most resembles San Clemente?

— Now here’s a Financial Times scoop worth touting—as opposed to many of those others it’s pushed.

The paper’s Cynthia O’Murchu reports that four of BP’s five North sea oil platforms have been dinged for not obeying emergency rules, “raising questions about the company’s ability to manage a disaster in the area.”

Further:

But the records of 11 of the 23 inspections carried out by the Decc during the period contain criticism of BP’s training processes. Of those, eight inspection records on seven different facilities suggested the necessary training had not taken place…

…the documents point to BP having more problems with inspections on oil spill training preparedness than Royal Dutch Shell.

Nice story. And it’s all the nicer that the FT got this story via a FOIA request.

— Here’s a wrongheaded nut graph from a Money & Investing cover story in The Wall Street Journal today (emphasis mine):

The project highlights how the private sector, economists and academics are stepping in to monitor Wall Street in ways the government has failed to. Two years after the financial panic, regulators around the world continue to scramble to get a firm grasp on risks at major financial institutions, which borrow in ways that are difficult to measure and trade derivatives and other securities outside the public’s view.

The project the paper highlights? Part of the government:

The project—formalized as a new federal office in the financial-regulation act—is called the Office of Financial Research.

The office was proposed by some academics, but that’s hardly unusual in any area. Most things that make it into legislation are pitched by business, academics, or economists—like, say, Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.