4. Murdoch told a Bloomberg reporter Wednesday that he wasn’t even aware of the payments to settle the Taylor and other cases.

News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch said yesterday that he wasn’t aware of any payments made to settle legal cases in which the company’s newspaper reporters may have been involved in criminal activity. “If that had happened, I would know about it,” Murdoch said in an interview at the Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

It’s not clear what he means. Is he denying the payments occurred?

5. The Journal has been lost in the headlights on this story. Its headline the morning the story broke was Orwellian.

British Tabloids Face Scrutiny By Government on Privacy Issues

And this update:

Police to Probe U.K. Tabloid Hacking Allegations

No, these are News Corp. tabloids; no other company’s tabloids are implicated in the Guardian stories or the new probes.

Today, the paper chooses to run with this angle: “London Police Decline To Reopen Tabloid Probe.” Well, that’s one way to go.

6. British papers have understandably focused on Coulson’s role now because of his current political job, but bigger questions surround why the police investigation turned up no other suspects beyond Goodman. As the Guardian asks:

• Did anybody at any level of Scotland Yard or the Crown Prosecution Service interfere in any way to protect the interests of the News of the World and its parent company?

7. Another area of interest is the press commission’s role, why its 2007 inquiry named only Goodman and the investigator Mulcaire, and what role, if any, Hinton played.

A couple of other thoughts.

The Audit made no secret of its opposition to Dow Jones’s sale to News Corp. back in 2007. No one ever doubted the value-creating ability of Rupert Murdoch or his company. But its history of subordinating journalism values to corporate interests and skirting ethical boundaries in the U.S. and in China made it a poor home for the world’s leading watchdog of markets, the economy, and corporate behavior.

Recall, for instance, that back in 2006 two Journal reporters were among those subjected to “pretexting,” the use of misrepresentation to obtain personal records, at the hands of investigators for Hewlett-Packard (1). Now it’s called blagging, and it’s alleged to have been done on a mass scale at the Journal’s parent.

Last year, we worried about the “Anglo-ization” of the Journal. By that we meant only its new owners’ light regard for, or even comprehension of, the paper’s traditional strengths in investigations, depth, and storytelling, particularly in its famous page-one stories, known as “leders.”

We noted the weirdness and duplicity displayed by News Corp. in its firing of former high-flying publisher Judith Regan in 2007.

I can’t help thinking about the old Dow Jones, where I used to work. It was so concerned with propriety that it didn’t even like to take out loans for fear of appearing beholden to banks, as former DJ director Jim Ottaway recalled in a 2007 interview with The Audit.

Now we have a hacking/pretexting scandal that involves possible widespread criminal wrongdoing at papers owned by a major media company, the parent of the world’s leading financial watchdog.

It would make a great leder.

1. “I Spy — A Reporter’s Story: How H-P Kept Tabs On Me for a Year —- Firm’s Search for Leak Led Sleuths to Scope Out Trash, Compile Phone Dossier —- Organizing a Bridal Shower”
By Pui-Wing Tam
Wall Street Journal
19 October 2006

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.