Hacking now fault of “rogue lawyer”? Will Rupert Murdoch appear tomorrow morning in public (well, on a US conference call) to talk about the second quarter and first-half results for News Corporation after new claims of hacking involving one of his London papers and confirmation overnight that the FBI is pressing ahead with an investigation into bribery claims? Murdoch ducked the first quarter conference call because of the heat from the phone hacking scandal early last November. He was also very reticent to comment at the annual meeting in late October.

Now, just when it seemed the scandal has settled down, another one has erupted that again raises questions about the managerial competence of an editor of a key Murdoch title. This one is email hacking, not phone hacking, involving The Times and its editor James Harding, who has had had to reverse previous evidence to the Leveson inquiry and admit his paper hacked the email account of a anonymous UK blogger. He then went to court and failed to mention that fact when fighting off an injunction designed to prevent the paper revealing the identity of the blogger.

Harding was recalled to the Leveson inquiry in London when other evidence emerged a week ago of the hacking and the fact that those details had not been made known to the UK high court court in the injunction hearing. His appearance dominated London media reports overnight.

As The Guardian reported:

“Harding repeatedly said he lacked memory of the details of what occurred at crucial meetings at the paper’s Wapping offices, in east London, held to discuss how to handle the fact that a young Times reporter, Patrick Foster, had hacked into an email account to identify and expose the award-winning police blogger. He told the inquiry he had been distracted during the NightJack affair, first by an attempted political coup against Gordon Brown and later by the Iranian elections.

“Despite being the editor, he had been unaware of all the facts until very recently, he said. He blamed the paper’s then lawyer, Alastair Brett, for embarking on a high court legal battle without his knowledge.”

Is this a new wrinkle in the now standard News defence? Back when it was blithely ignoring the phone hacking scandal after the News of The World‘s royal editor Clive Goodman was sacked and jailed for phone hacking, News International used to say the hacking was the result of a “rogue reporter” and nothing more. So in the case of The Times, is Alastair Brett going to be hung out by the company and described as a “rogue lawyer”? — Glenn Dyer

Andrews: PM refuses to not lie! An early contender for press release of the year came from the office of opposition front-bencher Kevin Andrews yesterday afternoon. It was mercifully short, at least …

In Question Time today, I asked Julia Gillard to guarantee to the Australian people that she won’t break any more promises this year.

The Prime Minister refused, kicking off the year with a strong indication that we should all prepare for more broken promises.

This is a shameful government. Australia deserves better.

– ENDS –

Australia deserves better, indeed.

No changes to ABC News Canberra despite ratings plunge

“Despite a dramatic fall in ratings over the past three years, the ABC has no significant changes planned for its nightly Canberra news bulletin.” — Media Spy

US authorities looking into Murdoch foreign payments

“US authorities are stepping up investigations, including an FBI criminal inquiry, into possible violations by employees of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire of a US law banning corrupt payments to foreign officials such as police, law enforcement and corporate sources said.” — Reuters

Sky News clamps down on Twitter use

“Sky News has told its journalists not to repost information from any Twitter users who are not an employee of the broadcaster. An email to staff on Tuesday laid out new social media guidelines for Sky News employees, including a contentious ban on retweeting rival ‘journalists or people on Twitter’.” — The Guardian

 Sun editor: page 3 ‘part of British society’

“Sun editor Dominic Mohan has responded to women’s rights groups calling for topless Page 3 photos to be banned — by arguing that the feature has become ‘a British institution’.” — Journalism.co.uk

Editorial cartoonists insulted by NYT solicitation

An editorial cartoonist tells Romenesko readers: “There’s a little tempest brewing in the cartoon teapot over an offer the NYT sent out yesterday to editorial cartoonists to submit sketches on spec. They then pick one to run in the Sunday Review section for which they’ll pay $250. A bunch of the cartoonists they solicited are taking the whole thing as an insult.'” — Romenesko

Peter Fray

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