THE OBSERVER: Journalists are natural egotists. Even so, we generally prefer not to be at the centre of the news we are reporting. Yet as George Orwell knew, there are times when the journalist cannot avoid being part of the story. Carole Cadwalladr, winner of this year’s Orwell prize for journalism, has made a virtue of this necessity. Not only has she broken some of the most important stories of the last two years, she has also involved her readers in her own voyage of discovery, taking us with her as she navigates the murky waters of the Brexit and Trump phenomena. There is a large personal cost to this: Cadwalladr has been exposed to the wrath of the forces she has been exposing. But it has been a vital demonstration of the power of real journalism. She has not just demanded transparency – she has shown in her own brilliant reporting what transparency looks like.
As the appalling massacre of journalists in Maryland has reminded us, the free press is fighting for its life. One of the preludes to authoritarianism is the undermining of the legitimacy of independent media. The purpose is obvious: to clear the field for far-right propaganda machines. Donald Trump’s systematic targeting of reporters as “enemies of the American people”, the dismissal of all inconvenient reporting as “fake news” and the organised online contempt for the “mainstream media” (which of course does not include approved media giants such as Fox News and the Daily Mail) all serve this same grim purpose. Orwell, of course, would have recognised all of this from the 1930s, and one suspects therefore that he would also have recognised that the bile that has been directed towards Cadwalladr is the ultimate tribute to her effectiveness. She has had to withstand the full range of attacks, from openly sexist sneering to accusations of professional incompetence, from legal menaces to “jokey” incitements to violence. When Leave.EU posted a video of a sequence from Airplane! in which Cadwalladr’s face was substituted for that of a “hysterical” woman who is repeatedly smacked about the head, the message was as clear as it was crude. MORE
FRESH AIR: The Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr’s investigation into Cambridge Analytica’s role in Brexit has led her to Russian connections and the Trump campaign. She says British investigators are now “working very closely with the FBI.” MORE