Once upon a time, journalists would be regarded as experts when they managed to get a *nudge nudge, wink wink* leak from an investigative body, without rule of evidence, like the ICAC.
In truth, leaks of information of unverifiable accuracy should be of concern to journalists. All they do is create a catalyst for laziness and neglect of the fundamental role of a reporter, to scrutinise, expose, analyse and educate their audience on issues.
Even worse, journalists with egocentric motives and a desire to maintain their often dubiously-earned reputations become ideal targets for grooming by ICAC figures that have worked out that headlines and sensationalism blur the goalposts of performance and expectations.
By settling on a compliant handful of reporters for their leaks, ICAC knows the pressure to “do the right thing” if they want more ICAC goodies is a winning strategy.
It allows its often inaccurate and misleading allegations and narratives to go unchallenged, without – or at most, with a disingenuous attempt at – scrutiny.
So when ICAC’s rotten internal culture starts to affect the quality, frequency and motivations for its inquiries, journalists can find themselves unintentionally peddling creative concoctions simply designed to shore up the reputation of an underperforming agency.
When a reckless agency like ICAC comes under fire from sections of the media driven by accountability of the government and the public right to know, the ICAC-aligned journalists and their associated mastheads find themselves playing the role of apologist.
The absurdity of a journalist with the title of “investigative journalist” that steadfastly refuses to investigate or write on alleged internal corruption at ICAC, including tampering of evidence, political interference, suppression of exculpatory and other enlightening evidence, is now a reality.
The Australian’s legal affairs editor, Chris Merritt, doesn’t need ICAC handouts of little or questionable accuracy to be at the top of his game.
In recent years, as media organisations shed staff en masse and investigative resources become thin on the ground, Chris’ dedication and attention to detail has produced industry-leading reporting on ICAC.
NSW taxpayers and other interested observers are the beneficiaries. They can now access information in the public domain that includes details of ICAC’s worsening performance, maladministration and wasteful inquiries.
Chris Merritt’s columns have become a compelling read – here’s one of them.
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