WSJ Europe chief quits over circulation deal: paper

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The publisher of the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal Europe has resigned after an inquiry found editorial content was influenced by a circulation deal, the paper said Thursday.

Andrew Langhoff, managing director of Dow Jones & Co. in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the Journal's parent company, stepped down "because of a perceived breach of editorial integrity", Dow Jones said in a statement.

But a report in the Wall Street Journal Europe said Langhoff resigned after an investigation found two articles in the paper were prompted by a commercial agreement between the circulation department and Netherlands-based consulting firm Executive Learning Partnership, or ELP.

It quoted people familiar with the matter as saying that for two years ELP bought 12,000 copies of The Wall Street Journal Europe each day for one cent of a euro.

That helped the paper keep an audited circulation of about 75,000.

The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones are owned by Australian-born media tycoon Murdoch's US-based News Corporation.

The Dow Jones statement said The Wall Street Journal circulation programmes were "fully disclosed and certified", but added that it had now halted the deal with the Dutch firm.

"The practice of sponsored distribution to business schools and universities is common in the industry and clearly identified in all WSJE publisher statements," it said.

"As we've stated, while the copies associated with ELP were legitimate and appropriate, we were not comfortable with the appearance of the programs and no longer have relationships with any of the third parties directly involved in these agreements."

Dow Jones rejected the "inflammatory characterisation" by Britain's The Guardian newspaper of the circulation program, saying it was "replete with untruths and malign interpretations."

The controversy is a fresh blow to Murdoch's media empire following the closure of the News of the World, Britain's top-selling Sunday newspaper, in July over a scandal involving the illegal hacking of voicemails.

It is also the latest departure of a senior Dow Jones figure after long-time Murdoch aide Les Hinton resigned as chief executive in July over the phone-hacking scandal.

© 2011 AFP

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