Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (Image: Raphael Lafargue/

Last week, while Australia was gaping at the sight of a NSW premier resigning over a corruption investigation, the courts in France were handing former president Nicolas Sarkozy his second conviction related to illegal campaign financing -- with another case to come.

The Sarkozy charges remind us that investigative journalism gets its scalps by following the famous advice to Watergate’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein: follow the money. But this century, the investigative mantle has been handed on to a global network of journalist-led digital players such as Sarkozy’s bête noire, Mediapart.

The news digital start-up launched in 2008 with what, at the time, was an odd business model: subscription only, advertising free. Now, off the back of the 2020 COVID boost, it reports about 220,000 paying subscribers, second in the country only to Le Monde’s 360,000.