That other scandal at News Corp.

 The really interesting question about the waning days of Rupert Murdoch’s reign over News Corp., his global media empire, is just how much irreparable harm his regime will do to the marquee institutions it controls that preceded him and deserve to survive.

So far, the redoubtable, 226-year-old Times of London is largely unscathed — though, sadly, it has become a tabloid — and, I suspect, civilization will manage without Britain’s News of the World, the century-and-a-half-old scandal sheet that Murdoch folded last summer amid continuing investigations that its reporters had been hacking into private voice mailboxes for years and their bosses had been lying about it.

Over here, nobody can blame Murdoch for ruining Fox News, since it’s thriving and, besides, it was he and his henchman Roger Ailes who created it, so it had no proud traditions they could disgrace.

Not so with The Wall Street Journal. When Murdoch bought its parent Dow Jones & Co. in 2007, overpaying scandalously, it was one of a small number of truly great newspapers — in its breadth, thoroughness, clarity, news judgment, the scope of its editorial imagination, its respectability.

Within the news world, The Journal’s shadow was long. It was admired and imitated. It pioneered styles of investigative reporting and narrative craft. People studied its front page to learn how to write and edit. I know I did.

Despite his reputation for swill and swagger, in 2007 it seemed plausible to assume that Murdoch understood his strategic success depended on keeping The Journal good. Whether he did is open to dispute. Some argue it’s a better paper, livelier, visually engaging, nimbler, less self-indulgent. Me, I don’t trust it the way I used to. I find its coverage of public policy now skews to the right, its stories are twitchy and impatient. I think the old Journal would have been much bolder in exposing the financial pigfest that shoved us into our current economic muddle.

But now it seems the more troubling concerns about the influence of News Corp. center less on The Journal’s news than its business practices. Earlier this month, the publisher of The Journal’s European edition and the head of Dow Jones for Europe, the Middle East and Africa was forced out amid astonishing allegations, Continue reading “That other scandal at News Corp.”