As if the phone-hacking nightmare wasn’t enough, the Guardian is now reporting that the resignation of a top News Corp. executive is even more nefarious than an article in Rupert Murdoch–owned The Wall Street Journal makes it out to be. Andrew Langhoff, the publisher of the Journal’s European edition, as well as the managing director of Dow Jones & Co. internationally, stepped down yesterday “following an internal investigation into two articles published in the Wall Street Journal Europe that featured a company with a contractual link to the paper’s circulation department,” his own paper reported. But the Guardian spells out the scam more clearly: The Journal was selling copies of the paper for as little as 1 cent to European companies to boost its circulation numbers, and in turn, even agreed to publish articles about one of the cooperating businesses.
Even though these games were being played at the European edition of the paper, the Guardian’s Nick Davies reports, “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.” Haven’t we heard this all before?
According to the Guardian, the Audit Bureau of Circulation still decided to recognize the highly discounted newspapers in the Journal’s sales numbers, but that in 2010, the deals made for 41 percent of the European edition’s daily numbers: 31,000 copies out of 75,000.
And when one of the companies tried to back out, Langhoff promised them more than just a great price:
But Murdoch and co. should look on the bright side: Compared to hacking the voice mail of a missing child, this is totally no big deal.
Update: The Journal insists the Guardian took it too far. Here’s their full statement:
Wall Street Journal circulation scam claims senior Murdoch executive [Guardian UK]
Publisher of WSJ Europe Resigns After Ethics Inquiry [WSJ]