Janet Malcolm in 1993 (Image: AP/George Nikitin)

Janet Malcolm changed journalism by taking it seriously as a literary form -- not once, but twice -- in one of the craft’s few “first rough drafts” of its own history, her 1990 essay The Journalist and the Murderer.

Most famously, in the opening line she exposed the dark heart of modern journalistic practice: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.”

First in The New Yorker and then in a book, it challenges the primacy of “getting the story” over the ethical principle that (per Australia’s code) mandates “fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material”.