Before he was promoted to his current role as chief executive officer of News Corp., Robert Thomson used his position at The Wall Street Journal to hobble the paper's reporting of the parent company's phone hacking scandal, according to a new book.
According to a report in Capital New York, Murdoch's World, the forthcoming book on Rubert Murdoch's empire by NPR media reporter David Folkenflik, alleges that as the phone-hacking story broke in the summer of 2011, Thomson, then the Journal managing editor, “tried to prevent the publication” of a “damaging” article on the scandal.
Thomson was later promoted to CEO of News Corp.
The article in question detailed discrepancies between News of the World's claim that a single reporter from the publication accessed the voicemails of 13-year-old murder victim Millie Dowler, versus evidence that a team of nine journalists from the publication had been ordered to write stories based on the illicitly obtained voicemails.
Folkenflik writes that “Thomson tried to kill the story several different times,” and that “several reporters and editors” believed he was “intentionally trying to set impossible standards so the story would not see the light of day.”
According to Capital New York, the story “was eventually published on August 20, 2011, but the revelations about the altered News of the World article were buried in paragraph nine.”
Previous reports have described Thomson as “one of Rupert Murdoch's closest confidants and, some say, best friend.”
The News Corp. phone hacking scandal, the fallout of which continues to this day, involves a pattern of allegations of hundreds of instances of phone hacking, police bribery, and other crimes by reporters at News of the World and other London tabloids owned by the company.
News of the World was shuttered in 2011 as a result of the scandal, and several News Corp. journalists have been arrested in the course of investigations by the British police. News Corp. has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements to several celebrities and others for hacking their phones.
The Journal was not the only U.S.-based Murdoch property to offer controversial coverage of the story.Media Matters has documented that Fox News was late to the phone hacking story and devoted far less time to it than other cable news networks. When Fox finally did cover the story the network did its best to do damage control for its parent company's behavior.
According to Folkenflik, Journal editors and reporters who were trying to accurately report on the scandal “told colleagues of stories that were blocked, stripped of damning detail or context, or just held up in bureaucratic purgatory.”