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Confirming a Lie

I want to come full circle on a posting last July, when a London newspaper, commenting on the likely move of a senior News Corp. editor to the Wall Street Journal should — as has happened — Rupert Murdoch’s company buy Dow Jones. The paper wrote:

Robert Thomson, the present editor of The (London) Times, nonetheless seems quite likely to exchange his once great office for a job on The Wall Street Journal. This depends on Rupert Murdoch acquiring the American business title, which seems highly probable. While he has been attempting to persuade the Bancroft family to sell its controlling stake in the WSJ, Mr Murdoch has called on the advice of Mr Thomson, a former Financial Times executive who has worked in America.

Mr Thomson’s denial that he is leaving The Times, and his expressions of devotion for London, are widely discounted as spin. He is more likely to become The Wall Street Journal’s publisher than its editor. Many Murdoch editors have yearned to escape the yoke of editing for the less taxing responsibilities of senior management.

Now it appears that, indeed, Thomson will become publisher of Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

My thought back in July, expressed in this posting, was what corruption the Independent story took for granted — and how especially ugly that is when journalists are the wrongdoers. Bad enough when journalists let politicians lie with impunity, I said. But I added:

It’s especially disgusting when the lies come from journalism organizations, which (call me naive) ought to consider truth to be the top value. I don’t expect Murdoch’s operations, or operators, to adhere to high standards, but when media critics correctly rage at bad ethical behavior from people lower down on organization charts at, say, the BBC, and then give a pass to this kind of thing, the contradiction is blatant — and telling.

3 Comments on “Confirming a Lie”

  1. #1 Jon Garfunkel
    on Dec 9th, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    And my response at the time was that this was no big deal. People change jobs all the time, and they’re in a situation where it is impossible for them to tell the truth. Was the public at large was really hurt by Thomson not being informed about his employment plans?

  2. #2 Dan Gillmor
    on Dec 10th, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    It’s almost always possible to find a way not to lie. There are rare exceptions — to save lives, for example — but this surely isn’t one of them.

  3. #3 Seth Finkelstein
    on Dec 11th, 2007 at 5:22 am

    Dan, I pointed out at the time, YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT HE SAID! You’re working from a paraphrase, and it might have elided the all-important “wiggle room”, the tiny bit of shading, which apparently makes all the difference between everyday politics and being called liar-liar.