It’s getting harder and harder for journalists to dredge up stories in today’s competitive media environment. That must surely be the reason why — as Crikey reports today — a reporter from the Herald Sun has in recent weeks been emailing Liberal, Labor and Greens state MPs posing as a developer and a senior citizen under a false name.

Greens MP Greg Barber tells Crikey that when the Greens called the mobile phone number supplied in the misleading email the reporter impersonated the sender of the email, but when Barber “passed the test” the reporter revealed his true identity. And when the Greens later complained to the newspaper about the reporter’s subterfuge, the chief-of-staff said the idea to assume a false identity was “coordinated” and “driven from the top” of the Herald Sun.

There is a place for duplicitous, unethical journalism — the sewers of Fleet Street. Reporters on the News of the World — a News Corp stablemate of the Herald Sun — specialise in lying about their identity and, over recent years, have employed private investigators to illegally tap the personal voicemails of hundreds of British politicians, celebrities, sports stars and members of the Royal Family.

Now the same sleazy methods of ‘journalism’ have apparently arrived in Australia, based on a corporate editorial culture that, as long as you don’t get found out, the ends justify the means.

We all know it’s getting tougher to maintain ratings, circulation and profits in mainstream media. But sending journalists out to lie and deceive isn’t the answer to those problems, it is a surefire recipe for accelerating them.