But it is wrong and perilous to ever devalue journalism. We need it now more than ever – that unbiased, dogged, relentless, intelligent quest for truth
There is the media... yes them... the circus clowns of gossip, celebrity and titillation, the puff and shallow, mindless nonsense. And then there are the journalists, local and international, who can change the world.
Ask any corrupt government official, corporate crony, or public figure with sickening secrets that are in the public interest. In the maelstrom of the modern mass communication of opinions and gloss, in a world of heightening greed and confusion about who to believe, the tenacious, highly-skilled and brave truthsayers have never been more important.
The watchword is fact.
I trained as a journalist, schooled by some seasoned news hounds, and was fortunate enough to go on to edit some newspapers. I have an idea of the challenges and responsibilities, of what it requires to begin to dig, to persist, to overcome: Often, the nearer to the truth you get, the greater the obstacles, sometimes the dangers. And, as you have probably already gathered, I am a huge critic of the media and how thin and unintelligent so much of it now is.
But it is wrong and perilous to ever devalue journalism. We need it now more than ever – that unbiased, dogged, relentless, intelligent quest for truth.
Just over a year ago an anonymous source contacted German newspaper the Süddeutsche Zeitung offering incriminating data, on the single condition they talked via encrypted files, saying his or her life was in danger. Absolutely, the newspaper said. Tell us - how much data? More than you can ever imagine..... 11.5million files, 214 letterbox companies, 2.6 terabytes of data. The source was not seeking any gain by doing this, only for justice to be served.
You will all be well aware of the story by now, dubbed the Panama Papers, unmasking the many ways the rich and powerful can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.
What may not be so well-known is the background story, the dedication and cooperation to unravel this data, to break open this society-changing proof positive of how (as perhaps the populous has long suspected) there is one law for the elite and another for the rest. And if no law has been broken there is something even more pungent, the putrid immorality of how a privileged few can exploit tax advantages at a time of enforced hardship for the masses.
To its enormous credit the Süddeutsche Zeitung turned to the ICIJ for help. Founded 19 years ago, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is a global network of nearly 200 people in more than 65 countries, a small yet massively significant group with integrity, tenacity and the collective capability to find out the truth at a time when the Press in general is being devalued and hence losing readership, bite and commitment.
Now these journalists have our attention. Now, finally we have facts on the seismic topics of wealth and morality, while, in Syria and around the globe journalists continue to risk their lives in the public interest, facing up to murderous regimes, industrial polluters, rogue public servants and criminal gangs. Just as importantly, there are dedicated journalists here in Catalonia and every state, bound by the same allegiance to serving the public interest above all else.
There has never been a greater need for all of them, so support them. Buy the quality press, read long, get into the detail, and even contemplate donating to the ICIJ.org.