Today, newspapers across the country struck back at the claim by President Trump that they are an “enemy of the American people.” In an effort led by the Boston Globe, more than 300 U.S. newspapers are running editorials that promote press freedom to counter Donald Trump's attacks on the media. One thing that’s clear is that a free press is the enemy of bribery and corruption.
Lisa Falkenburg, the Pulitzer Prize winning editor of the Houston Chronicle, wrote, “[Trump] is only right if your friend is unchecked government power. If your allies are corruption and misuse of taxpayer dollars. Biased grand juries and wrongful convictions.” She is correct that a free press is critical to a democratic society and this was not only recognized by our founding fathers but also enshrined in the First Amendment.
I have long thought about the role of the Fourth Estate in the battle against bribery and corruption. I was reminded of that role with the retirement of reporter Ben DiPietro from the Wall Street Journal Risk and Compliance Journal this week. The Risk and Compliance Journal is the only daily publication from a major U.S. newspaper that focuses on bribery and corruption. The Risk and Compliance Journal plays an important role in the continuing fight against bribery and corruption just as all other journalists plying their trade do in their respective areas.
Falkenburg was right that a free and robust press helps in this fight. And it goes far beyond newspapers. Bloggers of the world who write about bribery, corruption, and compliance are a part of this fight. Writers for magazines such as Adam Davidson at the New Yorker, who writes about money laundering in large real estate projects, are a part of that fight. Book authors such as Jack Ewing (Volkswagen emissions-testing scandal); Ken Bensinger (corruption scandal at FIFA); and John Carreyou (fraud perpetrated by Theranos) are all part of not only a rich tradition but an important part of the worldwide fight against bribery and corruption.
Everyone has a role to play in the fight against bribery and corruption: The prosecutors enforce the growing number of laws. Companies and businesses subject to those laws engage in business activities consistent with those laws. Compliance professionals create processes to do business ethically and in compliance with those laws. A free press reports on successes and helps root out the failures. The media certainly does not qualify as an enemy of the American people. Quite the opposite, in fact.