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The global fourth estate

In his recently released book Collusion, Luke Harding briefly discusses the media cooperation taking place behind the scenes, as media organisations grappled with a rapidly changing landscape. On loc 898 he writes:

At the Guardian we were pursuing leads from both sides of the Atlantic. Among them, how UK spy agencies had first picked up suspicious interactions between the Russians and the Trump campaign and the role played by Deutsche Bank, Trump’s principal lender. We made an investigative pod—Harding, Hopkins, Borger, and Stephanie Kirchgaessner, a talented former Washington correspondent, now based in Rome. We built up a portfolio of sources. There was healthy competition still, but reporters on different titles began working together on some stories. There were formal press consortiums and ad hoc conversations between one-time rivals. I talked to the New York Times, the Post, the Financial Times in London, Reuters, Mother Jones, the Daily Beast, CNN, and others. Such conversations took place in New York, Washington, London, Munich, and Sarajevo. Some happened in glossy conference rooms, others in the corners of pubs over warm ale. Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times, argued that the “gravity of the matter” called for a change in the press’s behaviour. Trump meant a new era. And new post-tribal thinking. Abramson wrote: “Reputable news organizations that have committed resources to original reporting on the Russia story should not compete with one another, they should co-operate and pool information.”

This has been one of many such collaborations. The most prominent have been the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers but others have taken place without receiving such prominent coverage. I’d like to understand the process by which (potential) competitors become (actual) collaborators and how this is enacted through day-to-day processes of collaboration. Does anyone know of first-person accounts of working on these projects?

The formation of the International Consortium of Investigate Journalists has been a central part of this process, with media partners and supporters from around the world. This is how they describe their organisational mission:

The need for such an organization has never been greater. Globalization and development have placed extraordinary pressures on human societies, posing unprecedented threats from polluting industries, transnational crime networks, rogue states, and the actions of powerful figures in business and government.

The news media, hobbled by short attention spans and lack of resources, are even less of a match for those who would harm the public interest. Broadcast networks and major newspapers have closed foreign bureaus, cut travel budgets, and disbanded investigative teams. We are losing our eyes and ears around the world precisely when we need them most.

Our aim is to bring journalists from different countries together in teams – eliminating rivalry and promoting collaboration. Together, we aim to be the world’s best cross-border investigative team.

Their work relies on a complex ecosystem of organisations, teams, media partners, co-researchers and supporters, including possibly unexpected elements such as analytical support from Palantir. They have published their methodology and workflow for one of their investigations, providing a fascinating level of transparency. Is this a worthy project which sits at the periphery of journalism? Or can we see in it the lineament of what journalism will look like in the future?

Categories: Post-Democracy, Depoliticisation and Technocracy Shadow Mobilization, Astroturfing and Manipulation The Political Economy of Digital Capitalism Thinking

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Mark

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