Another News Corp. Executive Resigns Over An Ethics Scandal

According to a report in The New York Times, Andrew Langhoff has resigned from his position in News Corp. as a top exectuive. Langhoff was the managing director for Dow Jones' European, African, and Middle Eastern divisions as well as the publisher for Wall Street Journal Europe. Dow Jones is a unit of News Corp.

According to Dow Jones, Langhoff resigned when it was revealed that articles written in the Special Reports section of The Wall Street Journal Europe came about because of a deal between the paper's circulation department and a consulting firm, Executive Learning Partnership.

“Because the agreement could leave the impression that news coverage can be influenced by commercial relationships, as publisher with executive oversight, I believe that my resignation is now the most honorable course,” Mr. Langhoff said. In a separate statement Dow Jones said the publisher “has the ultimate responsibility for this matter.”

A clarification published on Wednesday explained to readers that a “now-expired agreement between the Circulation Department of The Wall Street Journal Europe and Executive Learning Partnership” prompted the two stories in the Special Reports section on Oct. 14, 2010 and March 14, 2011. The “reporting and writing were solely the responsibility of the News Department,” the clarification said. “However, any action that creates an impression that news coverage can be influenced by commercial interests is a breach of the ethical standards of Dow Jones & Co.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that “According to people familiar with the matter, an internal investigation at Dow Jones showed that Mr. Langhoff personally pressured two reporters into writing articles featuring ELP.”

But the Guardian's Nick Davies (who broke the phone hacking scandal) alleges that the reason for Langhoff's departure was more complex. Davies reported that “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.”

Davies explains further:

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.

The highly controversial activities were organised in London and focused on the Journal's European edition, which circulates in the EU, Russia, and Africa. Senior executives in New York, including Murdoch's right-hand man, Les Hinton, were alerted to the problems last year by an internal whistleblower and apparently chose to take no action. The whistleblower was then made redundant.

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.

This case appears to be more of the same sort of unethical, possibly criminal behavior we've come to expect from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.