It seems likely that these practices are widespread, and that there is a web of culpability that no one wants to pull on. The notion that the NYT chased this to hurt Murdoch was new to me. But, I have to think that this goes on in the US too. Maybe it's a proxy war?
That said, a certain amount of rogue journalism is necessary for a democratic society. I'd hate to see a backlash that lead to a more caged press.
I would like to know more about the Guardian-NYTimes tag-team process: when did it start, at what level was it coordinated, etc. The NYT-WSJ angle is compelling enough as a motivation for NYTimes, but assuming pure economic motivation for NYTimes is possibly disinformation as the jab across the pond and the actors involved (UK police, cabinet, royals, and secret services; Rupert Murdoch) strongly suggest a larger context of political intrigue.
> ... is necessary for a democratic society [?]
Checks and balances, and transparency, in the Fourth Estate of journalism.