World Association of News Publishers

Anatomy of a Global Investigation: Collaborative, Data-Driven, Without Borders

Anatomy of a Global Investigation: Collaborative, Data-Driven, Without Borders


WAN-IFRA and the World Editors Forum are honoured that Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy has chosen the association to share one of the center's latest papers, "Anatomy of a Global Investigation: Collaborative, Data-Driven, Without Borders" by William E. Buzenberg, Joan Shorenstein Fellow (Spring 2015) and former Executive Director of the Center for Public Integrity. Buzenberg explores the need for and impact of international collaborations between news outlets.


Buzenberg argues that although our world – and its resulting news stories – have become increasingly more globalized in nature, from finance to the environment to crime, most news outlets still find their scope restricted by nation-state borders and thinly-spread foreign correspondents.

Buzenberg’s paper details the founding, successes, and tactics of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an organization that leverages big data and the skills of journalists in 65 countries to produce investigative reports. The paper also provides practical takeaways for news outlets hoping to replicate such a model.

Author's take

This is the story of a series of international investigations that made history — the largest journalistic collaborations on record and how they were created. Why are these so necessary now?  Globalization requires a cross-border journalistic response. Journalism has fallen behind the way the world is organized. We live in a more globalized society than ever before. Goods and services are increasingly global. So are environmental consequences, businesses and financial infractions; crooks and hackers are all cross-border. We need to create a scale of journalism to fit the crime.

However, today’s global news is covered mostly by nation-state-based journalists, along with wire services, and a few thousand foreign correspondents spread thinly around the planet’s news centers and hot spots. They cannot provide the necessary robust investigative clout needed to see today’s borderless world in hundreds of places and thousands of ways simultaneously. A global vision, using the latest technologies, is needed to make better sense of our cross-border world and to report on it for citizens everywhere. Otherwise, the press will remain outmatched and outgunned, as well as underinvested, just when a stronger global watchdog is critically needed.

I want to thank the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and especially Director Alex Jones for the opportunity to tell this important story. Without exception, Joan Shorenstein fellows, Center faculty, staff and Kennedy School students have all been consistently helpful. HKS research assistant Devon Maylie has also been a tremendous resource. Finally, I want to express my profound appreciation to my former colleagues in Washington, D.C., at the Center for Public Integrity and those associated with the remarkable International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. I truly believe ICIJ is the journalism of the future doing exceptional work today.

WPT/WEF Trends Report
William E. Buzenberg



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2015-07-06 14:37

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