What will £150 000 buy you?
A Porche? Yep. A massive house in the suburbs? Yep. A lot of friends? Yep. Shares in a major company? Not many of them, but, yep you can get that for the equivalent of R1.7-million.
More than all of this, though, R1.7-million will buy you a cracking news story. In fact, it will buy you the news story carved wide open the bowels of international cricket.
£150 000. One-hundred-and-fifty-thousand pounds. That’s what British tabliod News of the World paid a Pakistani man to crack the story that the Pakistan national cricket team was throwing matches in their series against England. England won the series 3-1. If you’re a sports lover this is the type of story that cuts to the core and makes you question whether or not the matches that you’ve watched were genuine or fixed.
If you’re a journalist, though, it’s the type of story that makes you proud of your profession. Why? There are several reasons, actually:
(1) The journalists showed balls – real, proper, big brass balls. They stepped into a realm of international crickets that involves massive amounts of cash. They’ve had to blur their faces on the video, such is the threats they could face as a result of breaking this story. I presume the names on the story are fake – but I don’t know this for sure. This is the type of stories journos dream about, but they take guts. These reporters certainly have that.
(2) It was packaged magnificently. There is nothing like breaking a big story, and it gets even better when it is used well. In this case, the pictures, the captions and even the words written in capital letters were perfectly on point. As a package it worked fantastically. This is when the worlds of reporters meet the worlds of sub-editors – and in this case the worlds collided with outstanding results.
These are two good reasons, but the third reason is what makes me delighted at my profession.
(3) The story was backed whole-heartedly. The shareholders / owners / editors / reporters / everyone knew what this story was worth – and they were willing to do what it took to ensure it got out. Especially financially. £150 000. R1.7-million. It’s a massive amount of money to use to piece together a story. It’s a massive amount of money no matter what the circumstances. But that didn’t matter. It was worth the money. And the company paid it.
Bear in mind that this comes amid a climate of huge financial pressures on journalism. Newspapers are shrinking, budgets are getting tighter, reporters are being fired. So to splash this amount of money, to give the story this amount of financial backing, it shows that true journalism can and should be backed. As a reporter, that’s what inspires me.
This story sold, that much is for sure. It had everything that a consumer could want – and more. The paper made a fortune. But without that financial backing of the story in the first place, the story would never have broken.
I just hope that other companies, editors, reporters – whoever – me included – notice this and start getting back to what journalism should be about: breaking stories that change the world. Budgets are not an excuse. Good reporting is good reporting.
It shouldn’t take R1.7-million to prove it.