du Fresne asks if Hager is a journalist


Central to the case, it seems to me, is whether Hager is entitled to call himself an investigative journalist.

That’s apparently how he prefers to be described, and most of the media oblige him by using that term. The court heard that the Crown accepts he is a journalist.

This ishelpful for his image because the word “journalist” conveys a sense of professional impartiality.

But to my knowledge Hager has never worked as a journalist in the commonly understood sense of the word, and I resent him appropriating the description.

Journalists follow certain rules. They are expected to approach issues with an open mind and to report them in a balanced and objective way.

(Some people dismiss objectivity as unattainable, but in fact it’s a wise and perfectly workable principle that has underpinned mainstream journalism for decades.)

Ideally, if not always in practice, journalists are expected to maintain a certain detachment. Where there’s another side to a story, they are expected to report it.

I think that last part is key. Journalists are meant to tell both sides of a story.

Everything he does is calculated to challenge and undermine what we loosely call “the establishment”.

Sure, he uses journalistic skills, and uses them very well. He could show journalists a few things about digging beneath the surface and uncovering information that powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.

But that’s partly a reflection of his motivation, which is that of a doggedly determined Leftist crusader.

What he does is entirely legitimate and even praiseworthy in an open democracy, providing it’s done lawfully.

Hager’s books make an important contribution to informed debate and help voters make decisions on important issues, such as state surveillance and honesty in government.

But does that make him a journalist? I don’t believe so.

He was more accurately described in police documents as a political author.

You could also call him an activist (which he apparently dislikes), a campaigner, an annoying pebble in the shoe of the establishment – but not a journalist.

I think author is the best description.

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