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News Corp. media properties give less play than others to British tabloid scandal

The home page of the New York Times was splashed with stories on the phone-hacking scandal; meanwhile, that of the News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal had one lead story and two less-prominent links.

July 08, 2011|By Steven Zeitchik
  • Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.
Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. (Reuters )

Reporting from New York — The deepening scandal surrounding the London tabloid News of the World is being covered very differently by the media outlets of News Corp. — owner of the paper — and their chief rivals.

The home page of the New York Times on Friday morning was splashed with stories about the phone-hacking scandal, including a piece about the arrest of a former aide to British Prime Minister David Cameron; an analysis of the Tory government's connection to News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch; a profile of Rebekah Brooks, the embattled chief executive of News International, Murdoch's British publishing group; a piece about News of the World staffers; and an article about the public uproar in Britain. Most of the stories were given prominent placement, and they came after multiple front-page print stories over the last several days.

Meanwhile, the home page of the News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal featured one lead story about the ex-Cameron aide, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, and two less-prominent links, and the Journal put one story about the News of the World on the front page of its print edition. At the Murdoch-owned New York Post, there was no prominent coverage of the scandal on its home page Friday morning, nor on the front page of the newspaper; instead, print coverage was tucked away inside the paper's business section.

The revelation that News of the World editors were allegedly involved in hacking the voicemail of a 13-year-old murder victim, among other such suspected transgressions, as well as the subsequent shuttering of the tabloid, has represented a veritable feast for Murdoch's competitors, who have approached the matter as a scandal that goes to fundamental issues concerning the globalized Murdoch media empire. News Corp. outlets, on the other hand, have treated it as a more traditional business story. A New York Post spokeswoman did not reply to an email seeking comment about the newspaper's coverage. A Wall Street Journal spokeswoman declined to comment on the paper's coverage of the matter, which also included a story Friday about how the scandal was a test for James Murdoch, Rupert's son and heir apparent.

At MSNBC, the liberal-oriented cable outlet that has been in a pitched ideological battle with News Corp.'s right-leaning Fox News, numerous segments have been given over in the last several days to the News of the World scandal, including a piece on Thursday night teased as "Murdoch's Mess."

Fox News stayed mainly silent on the News of the World scandal during prime time Thursday, largely filling its roster of shows with discussions about topics such as the Casey Anthony sentencing and the federal budget. A Fox News spokeswoman did not elaborate on the network's approach but pointed to coverage as a business story on several news programs. CNN staked out a middle ground, offering some coverage; albeit less gleefully than MSNBC.

For Murdoch critics, the controversy was a chance to brandish evidence that News Corp. is a partisan and even unethical news organization. Indeed, even the shuttering of the News of the World was seen as a cynical attempt by critics to preserve Murdoch's takeover bid for British satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

'We're pleased this story is becoming news in the U.S. and that attention is being given to a greater pattern of mismanagement and deceit from News Corp. that we've been tracking for a long time," said Ilyse Hogue, a senior advisor at Media Matters, which monitors the media from a left-of-center viewpoint.

Such organizations at the other end of the spectrum have, for their part, lain low. A request for comment Friday from Brent Bozell, Media Matters' ideological counterpoint at the conservative Media Research Center, was not immediately returned.

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