21st Century Journalism XXXVI: An Exemplary ArticleI have found myself increasingly hard-hearted as I read about the declining fortunes of the news industry. As a news junkie, I am only too happy to find significant and accurate material in the various newspapers I check each day (online, except in the case of my local paper). Unfortunately, much of what is published is shallow and inaccurate. Why should anybody pay money for this?
More specifically, the news reports I read are frequently poorly sourced and poorly fact-checked. The whole idea of "enterprise reporting" seems to have become etiolated. Instead of pressing to "get the story," many reporters phone their favorite official sources (often anonymous) and simply transfer quotes into their articles, with no attempt to assess the accuracy of what they've been told, even though many of the sources in question have a track record of mendaciousness.
Feeling starved for reporting I can trust and learn from, I find myself responding with marked relief when I encounter a story that reminds me of the good old days of expert reporting.
Such an article showed up in the Financial Times on August 29. Written by Martin Sandbu, "The Iraqi who saved Norway from oil" recounts the career of Farouk al-Kasim, a man who has lived in Norway with his Norwegian wife and their chilcren since 1968. During that time, he has provided expertise, largely in obscurity, that has helped Norway develop its oil resources in a way that is contributing to the long-run welfare of the country's residents.
Sandbu's thesis, which he supports with evidence from the publicly known history of Norway's oil sector and from his own research, is that al-Kasim has played a major role in helping preserve Norway from the severe economic distortions other oil countries have experienced. The most significant of these distortions are inefficiency in the oil sector, insufficient investment in economic activity outside of oil extraction, and a skewed distribution of income among residents (resulting in part from corruption).
The encouraging health of Norway's oil business is an outgrowth of balancing state participation in the oil sector with involvement of private-sector oil companies. Al-Kasim provided guidance for this balancing act.
I encourage you to have a look at Sandbu's article to form your own opinion of its quality and, perhaps, to adopt it as a benchmark for other newspaper articles dealing with topics of substantial economic and social importance.