Rupert’s Big Teeth

“Now I believe good journalism is a wonderful calling,” he told Mr. Jenkins. “But American journalism, generally speaking, is rather monolithic on the left and following, if you will, the agenda of the New York Times.”

Now, Mr. Varadarajan is working for the news report, and Mr. Gigot is running the editorial pages. And in all of this current confusion it is easy to forget that the absorbing question inside The Wall Street Journal before Mr. Murdoch arrived was not about the newspaper’s independence from its owners, but the independence of the news report from the influence of the newspaper’s own editorial board.

When politically opportune, the editorial page has eagerly reached over the paper’s Chinese Wall to swipe at their news colleagues.

The Bush administration, shortly after the September 11 attacks, secretly accessed banking records maintained by Swift, a Belgium-based consortium. The clandestine program, the administration maintained, was vital for tracking terror financing in both domestic and foreign investigations.

On June 22, Journal reporter Glenn Simpson dubbed the program “far-reaching” through accessing a “network that handles nearly all international financial transfers.” Mr. Simpson also reported that the “program operates under a series of broad U.S. subpoenas.”

Vice President Dick Cheney responded that same day, criticizing newspapers for publishing information on the government’s involvement with the Swift network, and revelations from the previous December—reported in The New York Times—about N.S.A.’s illegal wiretapping program.

“What I find most disturbing about these stories is that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people,” Mr. Cheney said, according to the Associated Press. “That offends me.”

Similar to the breaking of the N.S.A. story, right-wing hand-wringing over the so-called liberal media followed in lock-step behind the administration, whether on talk radio, cable news or the editorial page.

Ironically, the editorial page provided an explanation of the church and state situation at the Journal on June 30.

“We should make clear that the News and Editorial sections of The Journal are separate, with different editors,” they wrote. “The Journal story on Treasury’s antiterror methods was a product of the News department, and these columns had no say in the decision to publish. We have reported the story ourselves, however, and the facts are that the Times’s decision was notably different from the Journal’s.”

Titled “Fit and Unfit to Print,” the editorial next put forth the claim that the Treasury Department—aware that the Times was going to publish a story on the program against their wishes—offered “the same declassified information” to Mr. Simpson because he would, by their account, “write a straighter story.”

And Mr. Steiger and Mr. Simpson were unaware that the editorial was written beforehand, as a source told The Observer at the time.

Rupert’s Big Teeth