UPDATE 1-WSJ Europe publisher quits in ethics flap

Tue Oct 11, 2011 6:40pm EDT

* Questions about relationship with Dutch consultancy

* Gave "impression that news coverage can be influenced"

* Andrew Langhoff became publisher in 2009 (New throughout)

By Robert MacMillan and Yinka Adegoke

Oct 11 (Reuters) - The publisher of the Wall Street Journal's European edition quit over ethical issues raised by the newspaper's relationship with a Dutch consultancy.

The resignation of Andrew Langhoff comes as News Corp, the paper's parent company, fights accusations of misbehavior in a UK telephone hacking scandal.

The nature of the relationship was unclear, but News Corp's Dow Jones unit said on Tuesday that the issue related to two articles involving the Dutch firm, the Executive Learning Partnership (ELP).

The agreement between the paper and the firm, now expired, was not disclosed to readers of the articles, the Journal said in a note attached to the articles on its website.

"The impetus for writing the article was the agreement, but the reporting and writing were solely the responsibility of the News Department with no input or review prior to publication by the Circulation Department or ELP," the note said.

"However, any action that creates an impression that news coverage can be influenced by commercial interests is a breach of the ethical standards of Dow Jones & Co," it said.

Langhoff resigned because the publisher "has the ultimate responsibility for this matter," Dow Jones said in a separate statement.

The Journal, in an article on its website on Tuesday, said an internal investigation had found that Langhoff personally pressured two reporters into writing articles featuring ELP.

Dow Jones has been fighting accusations of ethical violations tied to phone hacking at its News of the World newspaper in London. Those allegations, which have led to a number of arrests, have prompted critics to demand the resignation of Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch and other executives, including his son James.

One of the Wall Street Journal Europe articles, which ran in October 2010, is called "A New Leaf: Beyond personal use, businesses are waking up to the possibilities of social media." (r.reuters.com/fyd44s)

The article relies on a poll conducted by ELP and features interviews with two ELP executives, including Rien van Lent, identified by the Journal as ELP's chief executive.

FORMER DOW JONES PUBLISHER

ELP's website says van Lent worked for Dow Jones as publisher of the Wall Street Journal Europe and head of Dow Jones's European newspaper, Internet and conference activities. He then joined Amsterdam's Telegraaf Media Group in 2006, before News Corp bought Dow Jones.

He and another ELP official did not respond to email messages seeking comment.

Another article, which ran in March 2011, (r.reuters.com/dyd44s) is headlined "Investing in women: Men still dominate boardrooms, but more women at the top could boost returns." The article is a question-and-answer interview with an ELP partner.

A Dow Jones spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Langhoff was aware of or blessed the arrangement, when and why the arrangement ended, or how the ethics issue reached the attention of Dow Jones and News Corp officials.

Langhoff, who became publisher of WSJ Europe in January 2009, based in London, also was the chief executive of Ottaway, a Dow Jones unit that publishes several local U.S. newspapers. He did not return an email message seeking comment.

Dow Jones competes with Thomson Reuters.

(Reporting by Robert MacMillan and Yinka Adegoke in New York. Editing by Richard Chang and Ted Kerr)

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