Catcalls Greet Wall Street Journal's Phone-Hacking Editorial

The Murdoch-owned paper argues that politicians and rivals are exploiting the scandal

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As the phone-hacking scandal involving Rupert Murdoch's News of the World escalates, with police arresting News International's former CEO and the head of Scotland Yard resigning over the weekend, the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal has penned an editorial lashing out at politicians and competitors for cynically using the phone-hacking scandal at one British tabloid to attack "thousands of other News Corp. journalists across the world." While acknowledging that phone hacking is "deplorable," the editorial warns that the "political mob" may very well endanger how journalists gather news and compares phone hacking to other news outlets--presumably rivals like The Guardian and The New York Times--publishing WikiLeaks cables:

We also trust that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics. The Schadenfreude is so thick you can't cut it with a chainsaw. Especially redolent are lectures about journalistic standards from publications that give Julian Assange and WikiLeaks their moral imprimatur. 

The missive has provoked a flurry of reactions, which generally fall into several camps:

  • A Blow to WSJ Editorial Page's Credibility  War at the Wall Street Journal author Sarah Ellison argues that the editorial page has become a "PR arm" while media critic Jay Rosen labels the editorial "deluded dishonest whining victimology." Fellow media critic Jeff Jarvis has even harsher words. "Journalists at WSJ, those with self-respect left, should rise up in protest vs its Murdoch-mouthpiece editorial," he tweets, adding, "If you haven't read the WSJ's un-fucking-believable defense of the boss, gird your loins."
  • A 'Peevish' Attempt at Redirection  The Guardian, not surprisingly, fights back, asserting that the Journal is trying to "redirect the criticism that has been levelled against its owner, Rupert Murdoch, gainst the journalists who uncovered allegations of illegal phone-hacking at the News of the World."
  • A Faulty Argument  Felix Salmon at Reuters points to a New York Times article by David Carr today to argue that "a culture of aggression tipping over into illegality was widespread in News Corp" in the U.K. and U.S., not confined to News of the World.
  • An Argument Others Have Made  Blogger Marcy Wheeler notes that the The Washington Post's editorial board recently echoed the Journal's argument. "It would be easy ... for the reaction to the scandal to go too far, driven by the long-standing antipathy among the media and political left for Mr. Murdoch and his rightward-leaning organs," the editorial warned. The Telegraph's Janet Daley made a similar argument over the weekend.
  • A Defensive 'Masterpiece'  "It is a masterpiece as far as defensive editorials go," PaidContent's Staci D. Kramer writes, "and the Journal and its journalists would be better off if it had been spiked." The piece's "1,046 carefully chosen words," she adds, "are written for the choir and aimed squarely at News Corp. critics."
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