What changed in Denmark in 2014?

Next week the committee of the Cavling Prize is handing out its prize for 2014. 

Given in memory of Henrik Cavling, the undisputed kingpin of the Danish media at the beginning of the 20th century, it is the Danish Pulitzer Prize. However, there is only one per year, covering all aspects of modern journalism. Reporting or investigative, it recognises journalism that made a difference.

This year the three nominees not only cover the criteria set by the committee, but also mirror well the most significant stories of the year. 

Rotten to the core

The first nominee carried out investigative reporting into corruption among researchers who took grants from trust funds to finance their research, but spent the money on private holidays, family dinners and other purposes. Apparently their superior knew about it to some extent and did nothing to stop it. The reporting led to investigations, dismissals, further consequences and pressing questions.

It made a difference in a country that takes too much pride in having the lowest rate of corruption in a world that we still have much to learn about. The case proves that corruption is likely to surface in even the most unlikely places. Its repercussions will echo among researchers and our society for a long time to come. It made a difference.

Mistrusting the good guys

The second nominee was responsible for our collective loss of innocence as he laid bare how NSE surveillance can be used against us just as much as it can to fight the war against terror. We learnt how we – and that means everybody – can be electronically traced and tracked … without our knowledge. 

We cannot turn back the clock and now live in a brave new world in which our information can be used against us at any time. We do not doubt the bad boys would if they could. The sad thing is that we now also have to mistrust the good guys. Were we naive? Yes, but not anymore. We will just have to live with it.

That is a difference.

Evil in the workplace

The third nominee reported from a forensic mental hospital to inform us of a scary development in which a growing percentage of criminals are being diagnosed as mentally-ill and forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation and treatment. In order to access the information, the reporter went to great lengths to obtain entry as a patient, putting himself at great risk.

It is an ugly truth we do not really like to hear about, thrusting us face-to-face with evil in what seemed like a relatively ordinary workplace. Now we know better, we can apply preventative measures. But shame on us for letting it go ahead. Thanks to this reporting, we now know better. Hopefully it will make a difference.

Groundbreaking journalism

It is safe to say that the recipient of this year’s Cavling Prize will be a deserving one. All three were responsible for groundbreaking journalism. Maybe next year will include the journalist at the heart of the immoral tax schemes in Luxembourg. It’s safe to say that reporting will make a difference too.