Murdoch's papers vary on News Corp scandal coverage

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 08, 2011 6:00 PM
Murdoch's papers vary on News Corp scandal coverage

By Robert Woodward and Christine Kearney

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - From front-page splashes to slim stories buried inside, readers of London and New York newspapers owned by News Corp were greeted on Friday with varied coverage of the shutdown of Rupert Murdoch's weekly News Of The World.

The Sun, which dominates the British tabloid market during the week in the way the News of the World did on Sundays, splashed the closing of its 168-year-old sister paper due to a scandal involving controversial reporting tactics under the front-page headline "World's End."

Friday's front page exposure marked a departure from The Sun's previous practice of making little mention of the phone-hacking scandal.

Murdoch's Manhattan-based tabloid, the New York Post, buried its Friday story inside its business section with a slim nine-paragraph story on page 29 under the headline "The End of News of the World." Rival the New York Daily News ran a page 3 story: "Die, Tabloid, Die!"

U.S. media experts said Murdoch's tabloid papers' general downplaying of the scandal was to be expected.

"How the Post played the story should come as no great surprise," said Bill Grueskin, dean of academic affairs at New York's Columbia University. "The Post is not known for its aggressive coverage of News Corp."

A spokesperson for News Corp, Teri Everett, did not return a query seeking comment.

Experts added that many publications do not fare well in coverage of criticism of their own company.

"There have been exceptions, but media typically do a poor job in covering negative issues related to their parent companies," said Victor Pickard, an assistant professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.

'HACKED TO DEATH'

Murdoch's broadsheets gave more prime coverage on Friday than recent times, including London's The Times, one of the most prestigious UK dailies when Murdoch bought it in 1981.

The scandal has severely shaken Murdoch's empire and threatened his attempt of the $14 billion takeover of the British satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

Friday's Times' headline splashed "Hacked to death" about the News of the World's demise and ran a picture of a youthful Rupert Murdoch reading the Sunday paper after buying it in 1969, and devoted its first 10 pages to the scandal.

Its main editorial praised the work of the paper and its journalists over the decades. "Yet a terrible lapse in professional behavior ... has now laid this great paper low.

"A handful of people have trampled upon others in grief and despair. They have shamed themselves, destroyed a newspaper and damaged trust in the free press. It will be a long time before that trust is regained," the editorial said.

The Wall Street Journal, which Murdoch bought in 2007, sparking fears that he might ruin its reputation as one of the finest U.S. daily papers, ran a front page story, but not in the same No. 1 position as its rival, The New York Times. Neither devoted editorials on Friday to the scandal.

Media organizations have often changed their practices after scandals. The Times created a public editor position after former reporter Jayson Blair fabricated stories.

In terms of breaking news on the phone-hacking scandal, Grueskin said Britain's The Guardian newspaper led the way on coverage. "Broke the story wide open. No one else comes close," he said.

Editors of Murdoch's papers have famously demanded aggressive reporting from its journalists, as captured in books they wrote after leaving, with titles such as "Stick It Up Your Punter!" which captured the tabloid sleaze and shock journalism success of The Sun in the 1980s.

(Editing by Robert MacMillan)