In what was the most explosive piece of investigative journalism in recent history (Washington Post, Watergate & All the President’s Men), the key source came up with a key phrase: “Follow the money” Bob Woodward was told, and that is precisely what the reporter did to connect the lines to the dots.
Today, as the first Coalition Budget is unveiled, it would be great if the reporting of it followed the same precept. But then understanding finance is not a skill for which the average journalist is known.
A recent visit to one of the UK’s key defence contractors illustrates that, while the UK press gets very fired up about us having our own defence manufacturing capabilities, in reality all we do is buy other countries’ equipment, play about with it to make use of a few British bits (largely for political ends) and deliver a product which costs three times as much as it should as a consequence.
Stories about over-priced light bulbs and other components are easy to find and write. The hard economic stories about the realities of defence contracts take a lot more work and are much more difficult to get right, let alone interest the average reader. But they’re also more important than those that get people tut-tutting in mock indignation as they sup their pints.