News International confirms internal review of ‘journalistic standards’

Joe Pompeo
Media Reporter
The Cutline

As the saga of the British phone-hacking scandal continues slowly to unfold, News International, the British arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, has confirmed it is conducting a thorough internal investigation of its properties. The company had already been forced to shutter its 168-year-old Sunday tabloid, the News of the World, when it was buffetted by damaging disclosures about the illegal practice of breaking into sources' voicemail accounts.

"As is widely known, a review of journalistic standards is under way at News International with [London law firm] Linklaters assisting in the process," a News International spokesman said in a statement provided to The Cutline. "This is part of a process that started a number of weeks ago and is under the ultimate control of the News Corp board through the independent director Viet Dinh, [former New York City schools chancellor] Joel Klein and the Management and Standards Committee."

The years-long phone-hacking scandal exploded in July after it was revealed that journalists at News of the World allegedly tapped into the voicemails of a murdered 13-year-old girl, while also bribing police and committing other transgressions in the pursuit of scoops.

Executives, including Murdoch and his son, James, had insisted the phone-hacking was limited to a single rogue reporter--but subsequent investigations revealed that the practice was far more widespread. The scandal has inflicted significant damage on News Corp., claiming the jobs of several top Murdoch lieutenants and killing the company's bid for a majority stake in BritishSkyBroadcasting. There's also speculation that phone hacking may have occurred in the United States, or at other newspapers within News Corp's portfolio.

On a News Corp. earnings call several weeks ago, Murdoch told reporters and Wall Street analysts that he was "thoroughly determined to put things right when it comes to News of the World. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to prevent something like this from ever happening again. There can be no doubt about our commitment to ethics and integrity."

Asked about News Corp.'s efforts to probe potential malfeasance in other areas of the organization, such as its other British newspapers, Murdoch said: "We're cooperating with all investigations and indeed inviting in legal pros to help us check through. We are totally committed to absolute transparency throughout the whole company." But he also offered no specific details about how the company's internal reviews would proceed.

News International would not comment on the internal probe beyond its statement. But the AP reports that "a person familiar with the matter confirmed that the review would examine News International publications including the 226-year-old Times [of London], its sister-publication the Sunday Times, and The Sun, Britain's biggest-selling daily."

Meanwhile, Rupert and James Murdoch are to be questioned about the phone-hacking under oath in October, according to The Telegraph. They have previously only testified before members of a British parliamentary committee.