Wall Street Journal Responds to Critics Amid Murdoch Phone Hacking Scandal

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"A tabloid's excesses don't tarnish thousands of other journalists," it says in an editorial that also defended resigned Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton and took a shot at the Bancroft family that used to own it.

NEW YORK - The Wall Street Journal, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., on Monday defended itself against critics who have argued that its ownership by the conglomerate has hurt the newspaper and its reputation.

"When News Corp. and CEO Rupert Murdoch secured enough shares to buy Dow Jones & Co. four years ago, these columns welcomed our new owner and promised to stand by the same standards and principles we always had," the paper said in an unsigned editorial on Monday. "That promise is worth repeating now that politicians and our competitors are using the phone-hacking years ago at a British corner of News Corp. to assail the Journal, and perhaps injure press freedom in general."

After a report from online publication ProPublica that cited regrets of the Bancroft family that sold Journal owner Dow Jones to News Corp. in 2007, the Journal highlighted the 67 percent price premium that they accepted from Murdoch. "The Bancrofts were admirable owners in many ways, but at the end of their ownership their appetite for dividends meant that little cash remained to invest in journalism," the editorial said. "We shudder to think what the Journal would look like today without the sale to News Corp."

The Journal also took on the topic of the relationship between politics and the media. "The British politicians now bemoaning media influence over politics are also the same statesmen who have long coveted media support," it said. "The idea that the BBC and the Guardian newspaper aren't attempting to influence public affairs, and don't skew their coverage to do so, can't stand a day's scrutiny."

Addressing Les Hinton, who stepped down as Dow Jones CEO and publisher of the Journal on Friday, the paper said it believes his comments that he testified truthfully to the U.K. Parliament in the past when he said he wasn't aware of the phone hacking. "We have no reason to doubt him, especially based on our own experience working for him," the Journal editorial said.

The Journal editorial also warned its peers. "Do our media brethren really want to invite Congress and prosecutors to regulate how journalists gather the news?" it wrote.

It wrapped up its editorial with a promise to readers. "Phone-hacking is deplorable, and we assume the guilty will be prosecuted. More fundamentally, the News of the World's offense - fatal, as it turned out - was to violate the trust of its readers by not coming about its news honestly," it said. "We realize how precious that reader trust is, and our obligation is to re-earn it every day."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai