News Corp.'s phone-hacking fiasco continues to do lasting damage to Rupert Murdoch's reputation, as well as the reputation of the media properties he owns. Feeling an especial sting is the Wall Street Journal, the crown of Murdoch's print news enterprise in America.
The once-mighty daily has been dragged into the tale of sleazy Fleet Street practices because Murdoch in 2007 appointed his longtime confidant Les Hinton to become publisher the Journal. The problem? Hinton turns out to have been a key player in the hacking scandal and oversaw a completely inept internal investigation for News Corp. which failed to uncover the rampant criminality that appears to have taken place under his watch. (Hinton was forced to resign last week.)
So yes, the Journal's a player in the story. (Albeit one it tried its best to keep quiet about.) But the good news is, Wall Street Journal columnists and its opinion writers have "total editorial freedom" to write whatever they want regarding the epic controversy.
It's true. Journal columnist Bret Stephens stressed that point during an interview with wsj.com. He wrote about the hacking story this week and in no way feared any negative, internal "consequence." (Murdoch, after all, is hands-on at the Journal.) Yep, the team has total editorial freedom to address the topic. Yet amazingly not one WSJ print columnist has demanded Murdoch step down because of the hacking scandal, or that News Corp. leadership has disgraced itself with its incompetent attempt at fact-finding.
What a coincidence! Journal opinion writers have total editorial freedom to address the phone hacking scandal, it's just that there's little interest in being harshly critical of Murdoch. And what a coincidence! Journal opinion writers have total editorial freedom, and lots of them have used it to rush in and defend Murdoch, obfuscate the story, or lash out at his critics.
Funny how "total editorial freedom" works sometimes.