Mathew Buckland writes in the E-Media Tidbits blog on how the shoe is now on the other foot for an investigative journalist who was investigating a company. The company has chosen to go on the attack and investigate the investigative journalist himself.
The company, Elan Suisse Capital, is being investigated by a journalist from the niche South African business website, Moneyweb. It has registered and created a website in the journalist's name, juliuscobbett.com, attacking his credentials.
According to an article on The Media Online, the company published executives' replies to a list of questions by the journalist and posed their own questions back -- giving him a deadline. The site appears in the form of a letter in which the directors of the company focus on the journalist's age, qualifications, and experience. Moneyweb has called the website a "highly focused smear campaign."
If you look at the site juliuscobbett.com set up by the company before or after having read the article by Julius Cobbett on Moneyweb.co.za that got the company all worked up, it is bound to sow a seed of doubt in the your mind on the competence of the journalist, which is just the objective of the company in setting up the web site.
The article in The Media Online says,
According to Moneyweb investigations editor Barry Sergeant, the website put up by Elan Suisse – which gave Cobbett until 8am this morning to publicly respond to the list of questions – is a “highly focused smear campaign that attacks an individual journalist and ignores the Moneyweb environment.” Sergeant states that Cobbett works within the investigations unit at Moneyweb, where “all work must go through the normal process of supervision, editing and checking”.
Says Sergeant: “One of the rules in investigative journalism is you play the ball, not the man. We are not playing [Elan Suisse directors] Brett Cormick and John Walters, we are playing Elan Suisse. We want to know where the money is. This elaborate smear campaign does not intimidate us in the least, we take it as a bizarre and underhanded compliment.”
Till now, the journalists had the edge in investigating companies, but now they may increasingly find themselves at the butt of an investigation themselves. As pointed out by the Moneyweb investigations editor, the publishing brand under which the journlist is writing and how much the readers trust it becomes important in such a scenario.