In this special episode of The Listening Post to mark the end of 2019, we highlight four cases of reporting that have made a significant effect on the world of journalism. The stories we have chosen get across geographies, different topics, and various forms of media.
Picking just four was hard but we settled on West Africa and a documentary film Sex for Grades produced by Africa Eye, the investigative arm of BBC Africa.
It follows a radio presenter and investigative journalist, Kiki Mordi, as she exposes the extent of sexual harassment in West African universities.
Speaking from personal experience, she told The Listening Post: “People like to make excuses for abusers and people like making excuses for harassers. But right there, visualising it, seeing it and putting your own daughter in that room, I think you would have a rethink about the excuses you were going to make for abusers or lecturers who harassed their students.”
Next, we took a look at some of the work happening on the front line of the Hong Kong protests. Stand News and its new generation of digital journalists have led the way with innovative coverage of the demonstrations, often live-streaming them – capturing the police violence, putting it out there unedited – well before the police and the politicians had a chance to spin the story.
We spoke with one of their reporters, YP Lam, who has not only been caught in the crossfire but who has been targeted despite wearing some of the tools of the trade.
“The challenges of working on the front line mainly come from the police. At the beginning of the protests, they might have yelled, chased you, or blinded our camera lenses with a torch. Recently, they have started using pepper spray, and many in the industry, like my colleagues, have suffered from rubber bullets or tear gas – everyone has been exposed to this. And now they have started arresting reporters saying they are obstructing police work.”
On the other side of the world, in South America, Brazil has seen the biggest anti-corruption investigation in the history of the country – Lava Jato, or Operation Car Wash. It is an investigation that resulted in the arrest of hundreds of politicians and business figures, the fall of one president, and the imprisonment of another.
But this past June, online news outlet The Intercept Brasil published another investigation, a series of exposes – largely based on leaked phone text messages – exposing corruption at the core of the anti-corruption investigation.
We asked Leandro Demori, the executive editor at The Intercept Brasil, why he felt it was important to expose the information?
“We immediately realised the obvious public interest that this material had because it revealed several illegalities and the unethical actions from the Lava Jato prosecutors and the judge Sergio Moro. So we decided to publish this material for its authenticity and value for the public,” he said.
Our last example of impact journalism is a deep, investigative dive into the Jeffrey Epstein story, the American financier who sexually trafficked and abused underage girls.
Perversion of Justice was published by the Miami Herald as a three-part interactive web series produced by a team led by reporter Julie K Brown.
Executive Editor Aminda Marques Gonzalez explained to us why it was that their piece of reporting had such an effect.
“There was a point in the investigation where Julie Brown came into my office and she said, I have a key law enforcement source who doesn’t want to talk to us because he says we’re going to be cowered into not publishing the story as other publications have been. And I said absolutely not. We have never backed down from an investigation and we’re not going to do it now.”
Journalists take a lot of heat. Some of them deserve it and we will be back on that case next week. But for now – four examples of the 4th estate making news, for the right reasons.
Kiki Mordi – investigative journalist, BBC Africa Eye
YP Lam – reporter, Stand News
Leandro Demori – executive editor, The Intercept Brasil
Aminda Marques Gonzalez – executive editor, Miami Herald Media Company
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