What’s the point of journalism? We like this definition:
“… the trust that comes from representing … readers’ interests and giving them the news that’s important to them … that means covering the communities where they live, exposing government or business corruption, and standing up to the rich and powerful.”
Those are the words of Rupert Murdoch, whose company, News Corp, is threatening Crikey and other media organisations with legal action because yesterday we published detailed information about News Corp that was demonstrably in the public interest.
News Corp is Australia’s biggest and most influential journalism company. Its impact goes way beyond its commercial footprint. Its impact is political and societal. It is a media company that openly and often aggressively espouses the importance of disclosing information.
Yesterday Crikey did what hundreds of News Corp journalists try to do every day — find out things that are important to readers and publish them factually and in good faith.
Often that information is inconvenient or embarrassing to the subjects of the coverage, and sometimes it comes in the form of leaked documents. But that rarely devalues its importance if it is true and in the public interest. News Corp publishes this kind of journalism regularly — The Australian in particular has a history of relying on leaks to uncover the truth powerful figures would like to keep hidden.
Last year, the Oz published the salary details of dozens of the ABC’s best-paid journalists. This year, it published the details of a leaked consulting report that showed Fairfax had been advised to shut down 30 regional newspapers. In pursuing Clive Palmer’s business dealings, the paper has relied on leaks to shed light on his business dealings with CITIC. And the investigation into Julia Gillard’s activities as a lawyer also were helped along by the leaking of documents.
Crikey did not hack voicemails or pay bribes for the information we published yesterday. All we did was to give our readers, in the words of Rupert Murdoch, “the news that’s important to them”.