Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


The Fox News Channel recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. It was a welcomed bit of good news for Rupert Murdoch, the media titan behind its parent company, News Corp. Murdoch is still ducking the fallout from a summer-long scandal with his newspapers on the other side of the pond. First, the News of the World newspaper closed down after outrage over phone hacking by its reporters. Now the top executive of The Wall Street Journal Europe has resigned over accusations that the paper was involved in a scheme to inflate its circulation numbers.

On Sundays, we often check in with NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik for stories like this and more.

And, David, welcome to the program.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Thank you so much, Audie.

CORNISH: So a lot of moving parts to this story. But it sounds like Murdoch and company are probably due for a News Tip.

FOLKENFLIK: I would think so. I think today's News Tip is that it's tough for a news company, a media organization, to restore credibility after it's been pretty badly damaged.

CORNISH: Well, how does this latest scandal about inflating circulation numbers at Wall Street Journal Europe fit in into the kind of summer-long scandals that we've been hearing about?

Well, how does this latest scandal about inflating circulation numbers at Wall Street Journal Europe fit into the kind of summer-long scandals that we've been hearing about?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it fits in a couple a ways. A key one is this: I mean, the scandal was about the inflation of circulation levels to the point where it's got to be pretty clear now to advertisers that they have been paying for a lot more circulation than they've actually been getting. But the second part of it is that it turns out that the publisher who said he resigned this past week, Andrew Langhoff, had promised one of the firms involved in this kind of three-card Monte arrangement, favorable editorial coverage. That's a no-no, that's a clear breach of Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal's ethics as well as journalistic standards. And it came as a real shock, I think, to journalists both inside and outside the newsroom of The Wall Street Journal.

CORNISH: At this point, why is this worth watching in the larger media world and for us here in the States?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, this has been a season of woe for News Corp. If you look at the question of its credibility and its integrity, it's come under extreme assault in the last few months. News Corp. was requiring its British arm to shut down one of its top tabloids there, the News of the World, because of its central role in the phone hacking and police corruption scandal there. News Corp. was forced to abandon its plan to take over all of BSkyB, the largest broadcaster in the U.K., and it's lost a number of the top executives, including some of the people closest to Rupert Murdoch. Time and time again after allegation after allegation have proven to have substance to them, the company has been forced to retreat and acknowledge some of its wrongdoing.

CORNISH: Now, I'm even reading that they've been advising the shareholders, some outside advisors, have advised that Rupert Murdoch and his son should be kicked off the board of their own company.

FOLKENFLIK: Given the structure of the company, that seems quite unlikely to happen. There's an annual meeting of shareholders due to take place this coming Friday in Los Angeles, and yet Rupert Murdoch on his own controls roughly 40 percent of the voting shares of News Corp. He has a strong ally in a Saudi prince who controls another 6, 7 percent. So, right there between them they're going to have enough to be able to hold off any strong shareholder challenges. But that said, you know, there does seem to be roiling discontent with the idea of the way in which the company has been managed, even as over time it is indisputable that Rupert Murdoch and his executives have led that company to a lot of financial success. And, you know, their investors are pretty happy to keep supporting that as long as the profits keep coming in.

CORNISH: But, David, all kinds of news organizations suffer challenges to their credibility. I mean, of course, New York Times and Jason Blair and here at NPR. I mean, why is this any different?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, news organizations are inherently human endeavors, right? So, there are going to be missteps and there are going to be challenges to the credibility of news reporting and of corporate actions. The question for news organizations is not are you perfect; the question is how do you deal with it? And a key value these days is transparency - sharing with listeners and viewers and readers what you know. I think in this case you can say in recent months News Corp. has tended to come out swinging, attacking its critics, whether the Guardian and the New York Times particularly in the hacking scandal, or here with the Guardian, once again, in raising questions about this circulation agreement. I think that the problem is so many times News Corp.'s British arm, News International, has been forced to retreat again and again that the credibility, giving the Wall Street Journal Europe and News Corp. the benefit of the doubt in this instance becomes much tougher. So, that leads us once more to today's news tip. And that's for a news organization, it's a lot harder to restore credibility once it's been badly damaged.

CORNISH: NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik. Thanks so much for speaking with us.


CORNISH: And if you've got a news tip for us, please share. Go to our website, - all one word.


CORNISH: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.