Nothing fake about the power of journalism

It is difficult not to see the irony in the hunt for the apparent killers of outspoken Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi being spearheaded by the man to whom such people are capable of delivering nothing but “fake news”.


In the blinkered world of US President Donald Trump, journalists appear to exist at about the same level as burglars.

No opportunity is missed to call them out, often by name, even when theirwork turns out to be anything but fake.

It is the same culture of the bully as practised by the likes of shock jock Alan Jones when confronted bypoliter females merely trying to uphold long-standing charters, or maverick federal MP Bob Katter responding to legitimate questions about his Lebanon-born grandfather.

The policy that attack is the best form of defence is not limited to the England soccer team that found itself 3-0 up away to Spain on Tuesday.

President Trump said this week that he had called Saudi Arabia’sleader, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to ask aboutthe disappearance of Khashoggi, whoTurkish officials believe was murdered by Saudi agents two weeks ago.

Trump fighting the cause for journalists is like Japan leading the global investigation into illegal whaling.

American leaders have nurtured a healthy fear of journalists since the heyday ofBob Woodward andCarl Bernstein –theWashington Post reporters whose investigation brought down Richard Nixon, but who recently agreed that the incumbent US president’s numerous misdemeanours out-Trump even Watergate.

Those who foretell the death of journalism will be the first to complain if corruption goes unchecked.

If it was not forWoodward and Bernstein, Nixon’s presidency would have continued well beyond August 9, 1974, and his dubious practices may never have been exposed.

If it was not for Irishman David Walsh, of The Sunday Times, Lance Armstrong would still be a revered seven-time Tour de France winner.

And if it was not for Scottish journalist and author Andrew Jennings, Sepp Blatter would still be ruling over a world soccer landscape blighted by backroom deals, back-handers and back-stabbers.

The medium for journalism may be undergoing a period of change, but the need for it remains as strong as ever.

The platform upon which journalists’ work is consumed is in the process of changing from a piece of paper the size of a towel to a phone screen the size of a banknote, but the power of their words remains the same.

Rob Shaw is a Fairfax journalist.