OLD Media Moves

WSJ reporters stymied in covering News Corp. hacking scandal

October 18, 2013

Posted by Chris Roush

Wall Street Journal reporters grappled with efforts from higher-ups to muzzle their coverage of the phone hacking scandal at its News Corp. parent company, according to a new book by NPR media reporter David Folkenflik.

Joe Pompeo of Capital New York writes, “In the most troubling instance, Robert Thomson, now the C.E.O. of News Corp., tried to prevent the publication of a damaging Journal article when he was managing editor of the paper, according to Folkenflik.

“In the summer of 2011, it was revealed that journalists at the London-based News Corp. tabloid News of the World had accessed the voicemails of a 13-year-old girl, Milly Dowler, who was murdered in 2002. A team of Journal reporters was working on a scoop about discrepancies they’d discovered between different versions of a News of the World article about Dowler that was published in April of that year.

“An early version of the article included ‘detailed quotes from voice mail messages,’ Folkenflik writes, and the Journal reporters had also learned that a News of the World editor had deployed a team of nine journalists based on a voicemail obtained from Dowler’s cell phone. This contradicted the company’s earlier claims that the phone-hacking was limited to a single reporter (and the private detective he was working with).

“Thomson initially argued that the Journal team could not confirm why the News of the World story had been changed.

“‘Thomson tried to kill the story several different times,’ Folkenflik reports. ‘As a fallback strategy, several reporters and editors believed, Thomson was intentionally trying to set impossible standards so the story would not see the light of day.’

“It was eventually published on August 20, 2011, but the revelations about the altered News of the World article were buried in paragraph nine.

“‘The process was so painful,’ one of the journalists who worked on the report told Folkenflik. ‘If we hadn’t fought, Robert would have been happy for us not to run it at all.'”

Read more here.

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