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From AJR,   June/July 2011  issue

Les Hinton: The Latest Casualty of the Phone-Hacking Scandal   

The Dow Jones CEO and Wall Street Journal publisher steps down. Posted: Fri., July 15, 2011


By Rem Rieder
Rem Rieder (rrieder@ajr.umd.edu) is AJR's editor and senior vice president.      

The hits just keep on coming.

Hours after Rebekah Brooks at last stepped aside as chief executive of News International, the parent company of Rupert Murdoch's British papers, Les Hinton on Friday resigned immediately as CEO of Dow Jones.

Hinton has had a far lower profile than Brooks during the ever-escalating phone hacking (plus much, much more) scandal. But the exit of Hinton, chairman of News International during the golden age of hacking, also was an inevitability.

This has to be a very sad day for Murdoch. Brooks was his close confidante and he was very reluctant to see her go. Hinton was also a trusted aide who had worked for Murdoch for more than half a century.

But Hinton had a major problem: Twice he had assured Parliament that the hacking was limited on one individual at the now-shuttered News of the World.

Now, of course, it has emerged that it was rampant.

In a letter of resignation to Murdoch, Hinton said that he had testified in good faith.

"When I left News International in December 2007, I believed that the rotten element at the News of the World had been eliminated; that important lessons had been learned; and that journalistic integrity was restored.

"My testimonies before the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee were given honestly. When I appeared before the Committee in March 2007, I expressed the belief that [reporter] Clive Goodman had acted alone, but made clear our investigation was continuing.

"In September 2009, I told the Committee there had never been any evidence delivered to me that suggested the conduct had spread beyond one journalist. If others had evidence that wrongdoing went further, I was not told about it."

Hinton was head of News International from 1995 to 2007, and the hacking took place in the early 2000s. He has headed Dow Jones since Murdoch bought in from the Bancroft family in 2007 and also is publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

The turmoil over the News of the World has had an unsettling effect in the Journal newsroom. The departure of the well-regarded Hinton will be another blow.

In his letter to Murdoch, Hinton wrote, "That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp, and apologize to those hurt by the actions of the News of the World."

In a memo to the staff, Hinton wrote:

"I want you all to know the pride and pleasure I have taken working at Dow Jones for the past three-and-a-half years. I have never been with better, more dedicated people, or had more fun in a job.

"News Corp under Rupert's brilliant leadership has proved a fitting parent of Dow Jones, allowing us to invest and expand as other media companies slashed costs. This support enabled us together to strengthen the company during a brutal economic downturn, developing fine new products―not to mention one of the world's great newspapers led by one of the world's great editors, my dear friend and colleague Robert Thomson.

"However difficult this moment is for me, I depart with the certain knowledge that we have built the momentum to take Dow Jones on to ever greater things."