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The News Tip: Hold On To Your Credibility

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News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch is still ducking the fallout from a summer-long scandal with his newspapers on the other side of the pond. The scandal claimed the News of the World tabloid, closed down after outrage over phone hacking by its reporters.

News Corp.'s woes continued this week when Andrew Langhoff, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal Europe, resigned after accusations that the paper was involved in a scheme to inflate its circulation numbers.

In a statement, the WSJE has said its circulation programs were "fully disclosed and certified," and attributed Langhoff's departure to a "perceived breach of editorial integrity." However, the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal have reported that Langhoff promised one of the firms involved in the circulation arrangement favorable coverage in the paper's news section as an inducement to continue participating.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Audie Cornish that Langhoff's actions appear to be a shocking, "clear breach of Dow Jones' and the Wall Street Journal's ethics, as well journalistic standards."

But even the circulation arrangement is coming under intense scrutiny, as it is now clear that the paper's circulation levels have been significantly subsidized by the paper.

While Dow Jones, the parent division of the Wall Street Journal, says the circulation arrangement was approved by the company that audits newspaper circulation in Europe, the auditor says it will give a fresh look at how the complicated deal worked.

Folkenflik offers a lesson to learn from all this: As a news organization, it's tough to restore credibility after it's been badly damaged.

News organizations are inherently human endeavors, Folkenflik says, and as such, there will be missteps and challenges to credibility.

"The question for a news organization is not, 'Are you perfect?'" he says. "The question is, 'How do you deal with it?'"

Transparency is key, Folkenflik says. Instead, News Corp. has initially "come out swinging, attacking its critics." Giving the organization the benefit of the doubt has become much tougher in lieu of the number of times the company has had to retreat from those attacks.

How should news organizations respond to allegations against its credibility? Share it with us on Facebook.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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