Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Murdoch man quits in ethics row

Senior Wall Street Journal executive accuses paper of blurring lines between news and advertising

The Wall Street Journal Europe – owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation – was mired in controversy yesterday as its publisher quit over fears the newspaper had "crossed the boundary" between editorial content and advertising.

Andrew Langhoff sent a memo to colleagues at Dow Jones – which produces The Wall Street Journal – saying: "I wanted to let you know myself that I have decided to resign." He added that it was "the most honourable course". The move comes at a time when the "culture, practices and ethics of the press" in the UK and of News Corporation have come under close scrutiny by Lord Justice Leveson.
Mr Langhoff said: "There is – and should be – an inviolable boundary between our commercial relationships and the content we produce.

"The perception that this boundary was crossed via a broad agreement between The Wall Street Journal Europe's circulation department and a company called Executive Learning Partnership has been of great concern to me."

The newspaper said no longer has a deal with Executive Learning Partnership and the employee who had overseen the account is no longer with the company. But Mr Langhoff said: "Because the agreement could leave the impression that news coverage can be influenced by commercial relationships...I believe that my resignation is now the most honourable course."

Dow Jones confirmed his departure but declined to confirm why. Todd Larsen, Dow Jones president, said Mr Langhoff had been "instrumental in successfully growing our business in Europe." Mr Langhoff had intended to stay in his role until the end of the year. He told colleagues: "While my time with you will thus be somewhat foreshortened, I have every confidence that you will accomplish all that we had set out to do and more.

"I have great regard for The Wall Street Journal Europe and the people who work here. You represent the highest standards of excellence, journalism and ethics."

In 2008 Mr Langhoff was appointed to head Dow Jones' consumer business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as to oversee The Wall Street Journal Europe after his previous role as US publisher of another part of Dow Jones, the Ottaway Newspaper Group. Dow Jones was bought by News Corp for £3.2bn in 2007.

Lord Leveson's inquiry, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in July, has the remit to particularly scrutinise another part of News Corporation's business. It will focus on the improper conduct within its European arm News International, especially the News of the World, which was subsequently shut down.
Sir Harold Evans, the former editor of The Sunday Times, resigned a year after Mr Murdoch bought the newspapers in 1981 complaining about editorial independence.

He wrote earlier this year that the company's newspapers "blatantly used news columns to plug their proprietor's satellite programmes".

The Independent by Nick Clark

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