Posts Tagged ‘News of the World’

Now Murdoch’s WSJ caught in a circulation scam as his European publishing head resigns

October 12, 2011

It’s pretty clear that The Guardian does not much care for Rupert Murdoch or his newspapers but they are involved in so much which is shady that it provides permanent employment for some of The Guardian’s “investigative journalists” (who are not themselves above some hanky panky from time to time).

After the News of the World / News International phone hacking fiasco, this time it is the Wall Street Journal which has been found to have been cooking the books about its circulation figures. Andrew Langhoff  who is Murdoch’s publishing head in Europe has resigned to contain the damge. Executive Learning Partnership, or ELP, a Netherlands-based consulting firm is also implicated.

The Wall Street Journal also carries the story: Publisher of WSJ Europe Resigns After Ethics Inquiry

The Guardian – 

One of Rupert Murdoch’s most senior European executives has resigned following Guardian inquiries about a circulation scam at News Corporation’s flagship newspaper, the Wall Street Journal.

The Guardian found evidence that the Journal had been channelling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate, misleading readers and advertisers about the Journal’s true circulation.

The bizarre scheme included a formal, written contract in which the Journal persuaded one company to co-operate by agreeing to publish articles that promoted its activities, a move which led some staff to accuse the paper’s management of violating journalistic ethics and jeopardising its treasured reputation for editorial quality.

Internal emails and documents suggest the scam was promoted by Andrew Langhoff, the European managing director of the Journal’s parent company, Dow Jones and Co, which was bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in July 2007. Langhoff resigned on Tuesday.

…… In what appears to have been a damage limitation exercise following the Guardian’s inquiries, Langhoff resigned on Tuesday, citing only the complaints of unethical interference in editorial coverage. Neither he nor an article published last night in the Wall Street Journal made any reference to the circulation scam nor to the fact that the senior management of Dow Jones in New York failed to act when they were alerted last year.

The affair will add weight to the fears of shareholders in Murdoch’s parent company, NewsCorp, that the business has become a ‘rogue corporation’, operating outside normal rules. Some shareholders have launched a legal action in the US, attacking the Murdoch family after the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World and following lawsuits in which NewsCorp subsidiaries have been accused of hacking into competitors’ computers and stealing their customers. …..

……

Circulation figures directly affect the advertising rates that can be charged and this circulation scam is nothing more than a method to defraud advertisers and – eventually – all the subscribers. Even the antics at the News of the World can be put down to maintaining circulation numbers. The certainly unethical – and perhaps criminal – behaviour of Murdoch and his henchmen and his newspapers can all be put down to greed, and a touch of narcissism  coupled with highly inflated egos.

Related: Rebekah Brooks and NoW – another new low

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David Cameron was “played” by News International

August 23, 2011

David Cameron’s judgement in employing Andy Coulson has already been brought into question. Apparently Coulson was also privy to confidential documents and meetings beyond his security clearance and that he was spared – or protected from – the highest level of security vetting. It has been suggested that his appointment may have been at the behest of Rupert Murdoch or Rebekah Brooks.

It now appears that Andy Coulson was working for two paymasters strengthening the impression that David Cameron was not just a “dupe” but that he was being “played” by News International. Presumably the real objective for News International was the acquisition of BSkyB.

The BBC breaks this story:

Coulson got hundreds of thousands of pounds from News Int

Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World who has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in phone hacking and bribing the police, received several hundred thousand pounds from News International after starting work as the Conservative Party’s Director of Communications in July 2007.

These payments were part of his severance package, under what is known as a “compromise agreement”.

According to sources, Mr Coulson’s contractual leaving pay was given to him in instalments until the end of 2007 – which means he continued to be financially linked to News International for several months of his tenure as David Cameron’s main media adviser. ….. Mr Coulson also continued to receive his News International work benefits, such as healthcare, for three years, and he kept his company car. ………

Related: Phone hacking: PM’s defence of Coulson over the years

Phone hacking: One law for the Guardian and another for the News of the World?

August 6, 2011

The list of UK journalists involved in phone hacking just gets longer. After the Mirror it is now the turn of the Guardian.

The Guardian newspaper may have been a major player in exposing the phone hacking scandal in Murdoch’s News of the World, but is not itself free from the cancer. Their investigations executive editor, David Leigh is a self-confessed hacker (5 years ago) but seeks to justify himself because his ends were in the public interest!!

David Leigh obviously considers himself an inherently good guy such that his means are justified by his ends. I am afraid Mr. Leigh’s ethics are a little confused, a little arrogant and not very convincing. The Daily Mail reports that he is to be questioned by the police.

UPDATE! It now seems that David Leigh was probably also involved in some kind of nefarious activity against the anti-global warming community after Climategate. It would seem that police provided him – or the Guardian – with information in contravention of the Data Protection Act. A form of “information laundering” perhaps!! 

Forbes: Jeff Bercovici

Here’s one more irony in a saga that already has plenty of them: The Guardian, the paper most responsible for bringing the phone hacking at News of the World to light, is harboring a confessed phone hacker. That would be investigations executive editor David Leigh, who, in 2006, volunteered that he had used some “questionable methods” to get scoops, including listening to a subject’s voicemail and lying about his identity on phone calls. That admission drew shrugs at the time, but the Guardian’s avidity in pursuing justice for other phone-hackers has given it new relevance. …

Does Leigh’s defense — that what he did was permissible because it was in the public interest and he was transparent about it after the fact — hold water? I put that question to Kelly McBride, who teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute. She thinks it doesn’t.

“The problem with that is he’s suggesting that the ends justify the means,” McBride says. “In most ethical reasoning it doesn’t because it’s a subjective call. For him, it’s exposing bribery and corruption. For somebody else it might be exposing that some pop star lip synchs over his songs.” (That might sound like a big leap of relativism, but think of all the stories that fall somewhere in the middle, like political sex scandals.)

…. Setting aside the lofty realm of ethics, there’s still the practical application of the law to consider. Leigh writes that “there is a public interest defence available under the Data Protection Act” that, in theory at least, protects him from prosecution while enabling the phone-hackers from News of the World to be brought to justice.

Even if that’s the case, McBride says journalists who choose to break the law ought to be prepared to accept the full consequences. That, in itself, is a useful guide for determining whether a story is one of overriding public interest or just a sexy scoop. “If you get 30 days in jail for trespassing, it’s got to be worth going to jail for 30 days,” she says.

New York Post implicated? Told to preserve emails following UK hacking scandal

July 30, 2011

UPDATE! News International ordered mass deletion of emails nine times

New York Post staff have been told by News Corp. to preserve any documents that may relate to phone hacking or payoffs to officials as the News of the World hacking scandal spreads across Murdoch’s empire. The clear implication is that something illicit has taken place at the New York Post – possibly connected with the victims of 9/11.

A memo to all staff from the legal department was followed by another from the editor Col Allen.

The text of the 2 New York Post memos is here – New York Post Memos

The documents to be retained were defined very broadly as:

“Any documents pertaining to unauthorized retrieval of phone or personal data, to payments for information to government officials, or that is related in any way to these issues, must be retained.

Please note that the term “documents” should be construed in its broadest sense, including but not limited to: written material, graphs, charts, files, e-mail, text messages, instant messages, any content in social media, voicemail, tape recordings, microfiche, video and film, handwritten notes, draft documents, memoranda, calendars, card files, appointment books, and the like whether in hard copy or on computer databases, hard drives, desk tops, laptops, thumb drives, disks, backup tapes, or any other storage medium, and regardless of whether the document is located on a company-issued or personal device. It also includes all copies of the same document.

The term “related in any way” should also be applied broadly. If you have any doubt whether a document should be preserved, you should err on the side of preserving it.”

Reuters reports:

In another sign that the phone-hacking scandal may implicate or at least taint News Corp.’s U.S. properties, the company’s legal team has asked New York Post employees to “preserve and maintain all documents and information that are related in any way” to phone hacking or bribery.

The email frames the demand as an effort to demonstrate how seriously it is taking the issues of hacking or bribery, improprieties — both confirmed adn alleged — which harpooned News Corp.’s famed British tabloid News of the World.

“Please know we are sending this notice not because any recipient has done anything improper or unlawful,” it reads.

However, the implication is that something illicit may have taken place. It asks that employees retain any documents “to unauthorized retrieval of phone or personal data, to payments for information to government officials, or that is related in any way to these issues.”

One possible reason is that the FBI has begun an inquiry into allegations that News Corp. newspapers hacked the phones of 9/11 victims.

As for what “documents” and “related” mean, the email asks the Post employees apply the terms as broadly as possible.

Post editor Col Allan sent out a memo to his staff regarding the email in which he says this should not be surprising.

“As we watched the news in the U.K. over the last few weeks, we knew that as a News Corporation tabloid, we would be looked at more closely,” he wrote.

Allan added that all employees must cooperate absolutely and that this edict should not endanger one’s ability to protect sources.

The legal team’s email instructed employees to contact Genie Gavenchak with any questions. A phone call to Gavenchak’s office was redirected to Rubenstein Communications. The PR firm did not immediately return a request for comment. 

In related news, the Guardian is reporting that Scotland Yard has opened up another inquiry involving hacking at News of the World, this time via computers.

Rebekah Brooks and NoW – another new low

July 28, 2011

The Telegraph: 

Sarah Payne and Rebekah Brooks

NoW ‘targeted Sarah Payne mother’s phone’, a gift from Rebekah Brooks

Sara Payne, the mother of the murdered 8-year-old Sarah, has been reportedly told by Scotland Yard that her phone may have been hacked by Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator working for the News of the World.

The phone is believed to have been given to Mrs Payne by Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor who was forced to resign as chief executive of News International in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

The allegations are particularly damaging because Mrs Brooks championed the cause of the Payne family and campaigned for ‘Sarah’s law’, a proposal to allow parents to know if sex offenders live in the area.

Friends of Mrs Payne told the Guardian she was “absolutely devastated and deeply disappointed” by the news.

Tom Watson MP – “The hacking scandal is about to nosedive to a whole new low. How could these people do what they did?”  

In the meantime The Guardian reports on the generosity of News International

“Former staff at the News of the World are understood to be underwhelmed by efforts by News International to find them work after they were handed a list of potential jobs which included posts in Siberia, Russia and Dubai”.

Murdoch’s News Corp to stop email deletion: A little too little and much too late

July 25, 2011

It has been over 2 weeks since the “s**t hit the fan” at Murdoch’s News International. But it is only now that News Corp has issued a memo to all News International staff to stop deleting their e-mails.

A little too little and much too late.

And why was such an instruction to preserve all potential evidence not issued by the police?

The Independent:

Staff across all of Rupert Murdoch’s News International newspapers have been warned not to delete or destroy documents relating to any of the phone-hacking investigations now under way. In an email sent to employees over the weekend, the company reveals it has suspended all automatic deletion of files and destruction of documents.

The memo shows News Corp’s fears that journalists from its other papers might get sucked into the phone-hacking scandal, given the company’s insistence that it was solely an issue for the News of the World.

The email, sent from News Corp’s new Management and Standards Committee, also raises questions about why such a policy has only just been implemented, given that the company has been aware of the extent of the allegations against it for some time.

“It is very important that all News International employees take immediate steps to preserve and retain all documents that may be relevant to these issues,” it reads. “We apologise that this is necessary but it is an important step the company must take in order to comply with the various investigations.”

The email goes on to warn staff that “all types of electronic and hard copy data or communications, including memoranda, letters, emails, reports, presentations, handwritten notes, tapes and any other recorded information or computer media” are covered by the edict.

It adds: “Please suspend any automatic deletion or discarding of any documents, whether electronic or paper, including emails or drafts of documents… If you are uncertain whether a document is relevant… you should preserve it.”

The company also confirms that its current policy towards the deletion of documents has been suspended. “Given the current circumstances you should be aware that all policies requiring the destruction of such documents or overwriting of any electronic material will be suspended immediately,” it said.

The News of the World newsroom has already been sealed and staff refer to it as a “crime scene”. All News Corp staff will be spoken to in the coming days over the way they deal with emails. News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee is being run on a day-to-day basis by Will Lewis, public-relations man Simon Greenberg and Jeff Palker, general counsel for News Corp Europe and Asia. It is being overseen by Joel Klein, a News Corp director and former legal adviser to the White House.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported concerns about Mr Klein’s role as an independent adjudicator given his close relationship with the Murdochs. He sat behind them when they gave evidence to MPs on Tuesday and was initially hired by the company to push its educational publishing arm.

Lawyers and experts in corporate governance said News Corp should have hired outside legal counsel to oversee the inquiry, rather than use an executive director. “That is not standard practice,” said Charles Elson, an expert on corporate governance at the University of Delaware. “You cannot be seen as objective if you are inside.”

Rebekah in Murdoch’s wonderland: Hackers, blaggers, Clouseaus and dodgy geezers

July 13, 2011

For the last 10 days the Rupert Murdoch / Rebekah Brookes/ NoTW scandal (broken by The Guardian and their  intrepid reporter Nick Davies) has been raging in the UK. It is now a  full grown 3-ring circus.

The story has all the ingredients of a new TV mini-series – a media tycoon, spineless politicians, amoral journalists, a red-headed siren, a multi-billion take-over bid, some corrupt policemen, some Clouseau-like investigators and a bunch of small-time criminals.

Yesterdays hearings of policemen at a House of Commons select committee was fascinating not just for the ineptness of the  witnesses (with the exception of Sue Akers) but also for the smugness of the middle-aged, middle-class, self-righteous politicians putting the questions.

Making sense of the torrent of allegations now engulfing News Corp., its subsidiary News International and their newspapers is difficult. But Crikey has a good summary of events so far:

Closing down News of the World may have been James Murdoch’s second attempt at putting this problem “in a box”, but the allegations of phone hacking and criminal activity are now bleeding beyond the besmirched masthead, as British parliament calls for Rupert and James Murdoch and News International CEO Rebekah Brooks to front up to answer questions. 

As News International continues to try to staunch the blood, now upgraded to a full blown haemorrhage, here’s a guide to the allegations thus far — where they’ve come from, and the subsequent response …  

Read more 

The story moves on into the House of Commons today…..


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