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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 02:30 PM ET, 07/25/2011

Defend News Corp.? Bad career move

Roger Cohen tried sticking up for Rupert Murdoch in a New York Times op-ed. He called the News Corp. chairman “good for newspapers.” But that was during the first week of the company’s phone-hacking scandal.

Bob Dilenschneider went on Fox News to say that there are other, more important issues to be covering. Like?

Cal Thomas accused the media of “piling on” the crisis. As if.

Will history treat these folks well?

With each news cycle comes a revelation or two that throws a dark light on anyone who’s stood up for News Corp. That very dynamic emerged from Sunday’s New York Times profile of former New York City schools boss Joel Klein. The story notes that Klein’s involvement in News Corp. — where he’s heading an internal investigation — has “surprised and unsettled many friends and colleagues, who fear that he will be unable to extricate himself from a scandal that shows no sign of abating or, they say, ending well.”

People should listen to Klein’s friends and colleagues: Be careful before you stick your neck out for this company. That’s what Vicky Ward did yesterday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” A New York journalist, Ward brings a load of credentials to the story — she’s a contributing writer to Vanity Fair, a close friend of some Murdoch family members and a former employee of News Corp. properties.

In her Reliable Sources appearance, she said that it was “quite legitimate” and a “credible statement” that Rupert Murdoch didn’t know about all the stuff that had happened at News of the World. And in a spat with New York Times correspondent John Burns, Ward attacked the Gray Lady for a headline that had appeared on a Sunday story about Piers Morgan: “CNN Host and Ex-Tabloid Editor Is Reluctantly Dragged Into Phone Scandal.” She said that Morgan hadn’t been dragged but rather came out “on his own volition.” Burns fired back that all those whose names have been associated with this mess have been reluctant about discussing the matter.

And so Ward came off as an apologist for Murdoch Inc.

Is that what she was trying to do?

No. Ward says that she holds no brief for phone hacking, paying off cops, or “anything illegal.”

The reason she went on television, she says, is to “shed light on things that weren’t true.” She sees a few points that need to be made in deference to the managers of the globe’s most fascinating media empire. Here they are:

1) James Murdoch did well in his testimony before Parliament last Tuesday, a point that is “objectively true,” according to Ward, because the company’s stock went up at the time.

2) Rupert Murdoch was “really shaken” when he heard about the Milly Dowler case.

3) This isn’t the only instance in which laws were broken in pursuit of stories. That stuff has happened in the United States as well.

4) “It’s not okay to bribe police and hamper an investigation — I would never defend a culture like that,” says Ward. “But I would defend what [Murdoch] told Parliament had been his original idea...I would defend the idea of having a very active, free press.” But: “It has to be a clean free press.”

Says Ward: “I’m not paid to be the Murdoch spokesperson.”

By  |  02:30 PM ET, 07/25/2011

 
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