The NYT story on the Wen Family finances that came out in October, Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader, is lauded by mainstream media figures as a journalistic coup and an example of gumshoe investigative journalism. But a small minority of media outlets, led by erstwhile Western media darlings Boxun and Mingjing, counter that the story is a clear leak. At best, they say, it’s impressive the way David Barboza followed up on the leaked documents that several other mainstream media organizations had taken a look at.
Evan Osnos, in a breakdown of the aftermath of the story, says this about rumors of a leak:
Osnos himself has been involved in some serious investigative journalism, including a series of stories for the Chicago Tribune that earned the team a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Journalism. Barboza is one of the NYT’s best journalists and has been covering business – which this story was mostly about – for years. So we should expect this level of effort from them and the newsrooms that back them and not be surprised when they deliver. Does anyone sneer when Lebron dunks? No. Only when he doesn’t.
But just yesterday a correspondent with a major British news organization was standing next to me in the bathroom and he asked, Do you think the Wen Story was a leak? It’s a question two people who follow the media and China will ask each other in the loo, or at a bar, or over dinner.
In fact, the question is so prevalent that Osnos went out of his way to refute it in his column linked above, and Barboza wrote a blurb about “Obtaining Financial Records in China” in order to prove that, yes, it is possible to get your hands on this information without a Chinese insider handing you a dossier in the shadows of the Shanghai Bund.