From Iran to Australia: two cases of great reporting

I’m discovering that the more reporting I do, the more I appreciate good reporting. With this in mind, I wanted to highlight two fantastic articles I’ve read recently.

The first is a Reuters investigation into Setad, a business empire run by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and worth around $95 billion.

Setad was set up to help the poor and war veterans, but as Reuters meticulously prove, it has become a business juggernaut that confiscates vast amounts of property and sells it on at a handsome profit. The victims are rarely compensated.

The process of writing this report took six months, involving court records, personal testimonies and evidence literally gathered by picking up the phone and knocking on doors. It’s a case study in exposing wrong-doing in an opaque system where corruption is common, but proving specific cases, especially for a foreign journalist, is a huge challenge.

The second piece I want to highlight is an incredibly brave piece of reporting. Luke Mogelson and photographer Joel Van Houdt wanted to show the danger people face to reach Australia in order to try and seek asylum: the famous “boat people.”

As Mogelson points out, over the past four years, most European countries have absorbed more asylum seekers, per capita, than Australia — some of them seven times as many. But successive Australian governments have fixated on boat people, each trying to be tougher than their electoral opponents.

Yet the dangers these migrants face are rarely exposed like this. Mogelson and Van Houdt went down to a money-changers’ market in Kabul, found a smuggler, flew to Indonesia, boarded a rickety old boat with a crowd of refugees from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, and headed for Australia. Their story was published in the New York Times magazine.

The two articles are very different: one an in-depth exposé of political corruption, the other a gritty, but never over-stated, magazine piece bearing witness to hardships faced by many but rarely narrated like this. However different they are, both are excellent examples of how print journalism should be. They are well-researched, whether through meticulous fact-checking, sifting through court records and hunting tirelessly for people who will talk – or the other way, through being on the ground, putting one’s own safety on the line to bear witness to an important phenomenon. Both approaches are important. If you read two articles this weekend, read these ones. And if you’re a reporter, be inspired.

Khamenei controls massive financial empire built on property seizures By Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Yehaneh Torbati

The Dream Boat – by Luke Mogelson (photos by Joel Van Houdt)

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