The Wall Street Journal's opinion page came to the defense of its corporate parent News Corp. on Sunday, accusing critics of using a growing phone hacking scandal as an excuse to pile on CEO and Chairman Rupert Murdoch, while ignoring his investment in quality journalism.
“The Schadenfreude is so thick you can't cut it with a chainsaw,” went the editorial.
Media critics were not convinced.
Though the paper acknowledged that “phone-hacking is deplorable,” its spirited defense of Murdoch’s leadership struck a discordant note with those who watch the watchdogs and they pounced in great numbers.
Jay Rosen, a professor of Journalism at New York University, tweeted “Deluded dishonest whining victimology delivered in the form of a Wall Street Journal editorial on the phone hacking crisis.
Here are others:
Sarah Ellison (Vanity Fair reporter): Tonite's WSJ Editorial is sad. I've always defended the Edit page, but now It's a PR arm
David Carr (Media columnist at the New York Times): # of WSJ editorials accusing competitors of piling on: 1. http://t.co/ETqP818 # of stories abt scandal same day? 4, including P1.
Jack Shafer (Media columnist at Slate): This WSJ phone-hacking editorial http://on.wsj.com/qXe1d3 ignores the systemic corruption of UK police & politics by News Corp.
Emma Gilbey Keller (Vanity Fair contributor and the wife of New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller): @sarahlyall @MickiMaynard Maybe it's the writer of the WSJ editorial rather than the entire WSJ staff who doesn't admire Grdian or NYT?
Not that the Journal didn't exhibit some fighting spirit.
“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 Journal piece reads. “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.”
But following the arrest of News Corp. executive Rebekah Brooks last weekend and the resignation of top Scotland officials over fresh revelations of illegal news gathering and bribery at the company’s U.K. tabloid News of the World, media critics weren’t too eager to hear about Murdoch’s virtues.
While hailing the Murdoch clan for investing in journalism at the business publication of record, the piece also praises News Corp. for liberating the Journal from its dividend crazed former owners the Bancroft family.
"We shudder to think what the Journal would look like today without the sale to News Corp.," the editorial reads.
The Journal opinion page didn’t shirk from taking the fight to its current critics.
With an obvious reference to the New York Times, which spun WikiLeaks into a series of explosive front page stories last year, the editors write: “Especially redolent are lectures about journalistic standards from publications that give Julian Assange and WikiLeaks their moral imprimatur.”
The paper might just of been responding to a blistering take-down by the New York Times' business columnist Joe Nocera, who rattled a pitchfork over the direction the Journal has taken under Murdoch.
"The Journal was turned into a propaganda vehicle for its owner’s conservative views. That’s half the definition of Fox-ification," Nocera wrote in an opinion piece last Friday. "The other half is that Murdoch’s media outlets must shill for his business interests. With the News of the World scandal, The Journal has now shown itself willing to do that, too."
Moreover, the Journal warned that journalists should be wary about agitating for any kind of government response to the kind of wrongdoing that led to News of the World's closure last week.
"Do our media brethren really want to invite Congress and prosecutors to regulate how journalists gather the news?" the piece reads.
An interesting point, but one offered alongside a bit too passionate defense of Murdoch for most media critics' liking.