How history was made: Two Panama Papers editors to keynote Collaborative Journalism Summit

Now as its own newly-formed entity, two editors from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists will speak about the importance, impact and power of cooperative media

In April 2016, after months of incredibly well-guarded and deep reporting, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the Panama Papers project.

It instantly became the single biggest and best example of collaborative journalism in history. Ever.

The ICIJ is a global network of 185 reporters from more than 65 countries; it coordinated the Panama Papers project, which reported in-depth on the use and abuse of offshore financial accounts.

The impact of that project was felt around the world. It was groundbreaking is so many ways — and that’s why we are honored to have Martha Hamilton and Emilia Diaz-Struck at this year’s Collaborative Journalism Summit, hosted by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. The Summit will take place May 4–5 .

Hamilton is a veteran writer and reporter who has spent years covering corporate crime and financial corruption. She wrote a finance column for the Washington Post until 2008 before becoming a deputy editor a PolitiFact.

Diaz-Struck is ICIJ’s research editor. She has taken part in cross-border investigations such as ICIJ’s Panama Papers, Offshore Leaks, Luxembourg Leaks and Swiss Leaks projects. She has been a professor of journalism at the Central University of Venezuela and has trained journalists in investigative journalism. Among her awards is the Latin-American Prize for Thesis in Communication from the Latin American Federation of Social Communication Faculties.

Among the larger implications of their reporting, Biana Golodryga says the Panama Papers (1) shed new light on the true scale of corruption on the international stage; (2) shattered the credibility of many politicians and companies in Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia, which also lead to investigations in many cases; and (3) increased the pressure to crack down on tax evasion and other international financial schemes.

As impressive as the reporting itself is — and it really is impressive — an equally important part of that equation was the unprecedented level of collaboration that served as the backbone for the entire project.

The fact that so many newsrooms and journalists have yet to discover the value of cooperation why it’s so important for people like Hamilton, Diaz-Struck, and the rest of the ICIJ crew to keep talking about the benefits of collaboration.

In a recent piece for The Guardian, Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer wrote about the value of collaboration when it comes to projects like the Panama Papers:

“The Panama Papers has showed that a formerly unthinkable project of collaboration can work,” Obermaier and Obermayer write. “When we shared the data of the papers with a team of 400 reporters worldwide, we brought together a vast number of investigative reporters who typically compete which each other. The main reason why our newspaper, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, shared the story with competitors was simply that it was too big and too important to do alone.”

They go on to call for even more cooperation when covering Donald Trump and his administration, although they do acknowledge the differences in the way journalists should approach and think about their role and responsibilities when it comes to covering Trump.

The point, however, is that the days of the silo journalist hacking away at a particular topic — usually story-by-story, with their publisher constantly looking around the corner to make sure they don’t get scooped by a competitor — are all but over.

Collaboration is clearly the way of the future, and we look forward to hearing from Hamilton, Diaz-Struck and the Panama Papers team, not to mention the rest of the lineup at the Collaborative Journalism Summit.


Joe Amditis is the associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media. Contact him at amditisj@mail.montclair.edu.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. The Center is supported with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Democracy Fund. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.

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