Hard News by Russell Brown

Help from the crowd

Independent journalism, whether conducted online or in more traditional ways, is not an easy path to pursue. For all the dreams of an army of truth-tellers swarming the space left by a shrinking media monolith, there is one particular time when you'd rather be with the dreaded MSM: that is, when the law comes into play.

By the very nature of speaking truth to power, the other guy is generally going to have better resources than you do, and that's particularly the case when the other guy is the state.

There are various ways to address this. Cameron Slater has funded some of the considerable legal help he has required in recent years through a form of contra: allowing his legal firm to place unattributed stories on the Whaleoil site in exchange for legal services, although it's less clear how he paid for the services of a QC recently.

The more conventional means is to rely on the goodwill of members of the legal profession by accepting pro bono legal advice. I am very grateful for the way such advice helped me see off a spiteful defamation action last year.

Nicky Hager also enjoys consistent pro bono legal support. Even so, he will face substantial costs in trying to recover the documents and possessions taken from him in last week's extraordinary police raid. It seems well within the theory of crowdfunded journalism for those who value Hager's work to offer help to cover those costs, as a statement of solidarity if nothing else.

That's the aim of the Givealittle campaign to help with Hager's costs, which was launched yesterday and has now passed $20,000. More than 500 people have donated.

I could envisage even people who regard themselves as politically opposed to Hager kicking in to this fund, on the assumption that there are still some small-state classical liberals who have not taken leave of their principles. This is, after all, an indivdual who has been subject to extraordinary state action without being charged with, or even suspected of, a crime.

One objection -- that Hager is principally in it for the money and has enriched himself by writing and publishing Dirty Politics -- can be dismissed. As Chris Keall demonstrates on the NBR website, this is not a lucrative trade, as anyone familiar with the realities of writing such books would already doubtless know.

I haven't opened comments on this post -- there's a discussion already raging on the rights and wrongs of the police seizure. But I thought it was appropriate to make an observation on what's happening here.